Lake Babine Nation seeks partners in biomass project

 LBN hopes to provide energy to nearby communities while reducing wood waste.

Lake Babine Nation (LBN) is seeking for partnerships to expand operations of its biomass plant, which is expected to be on the grid in 2017.

Two LBN representatives recently approached the board of directors of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) to provide an update on the development of the biomass plant and propose a partnership moving forward.

Although the plan is for the biomass plant to burn wood chips from LBN communities such as Fort Babine and Tachet, project manager Bernard Patrick said there’s opportunity to utilize wood waste from other areas of the regional district and to provide energy to different communities.

Patrick said a feasibility study has already been conducted and that it would be possible for LBN to supply energy to buildings such as hospitals and nursing homes in nearby communities such as Burns Lake.

Bill Miller, Chair of the RDBN, agreed that there’s opportunity for a partnership between LBN and the regional district.

“I’m sure that there will be lots of conversation from now on after we connect our staff,” said Miller during a RDBN board of directors meeting on June 23, 2016.

Telkwa Mayor Darcy Repen also expressed interest, saying LBN should contact Telkwa staff to discuss a possible partnership.

The project’s phase one, which included a feasibility study, engineering design and crew training, has already concluded. During phase one, eight locals received on-the-job training through a government-funded program called job creation partnership project.

“The job creation partnership project is a first for our First Nation and the benefits coming from this have already impacted the communities in a positive way,” said Patrick. “It has brought back hope that both the communities of Tachet and Fort Babine can become self-sustaining and unified and the workers are getting fantastic job experience.”

As part of the program, participants built 67 firewood storage sheds for LBN in Tachet and Fort Babine, as well as two timber bridges. The firewood sheds were intended to reduce power consumption in those communities.

“It’s a win for everyone when eight people gain access to work experience in forestry practices that will help an entire First Nations community become energy self-sufficient,” said Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad. “The Lake Babine Nation and its residents will benefit from this job creation partnership for years to come.”

Lake Babine Nation is now waiting for funding from different agencies to start phase two of the construction project, which involves the construction of an underground distribution system in Fort Babine.

Phase three of the construction project, which is expected to wrap up in 2017, will see the construction of an energy centre in Woyenee, as well as a business set-up and operation training.

Once completed, the biomass plant is expected to create five full-time and eight part-time permanent jobs.

According to Patrick, other benefits from this project include the reduction of LBN’s carbon footprint, revenue from the sale of heat and electricity and cost-efficient heating.

The province has provided $40,000 to LBN for a feasibility study in 2013, and more than $110,000 for the job creation partnership project.

The provincial government estimates Northern B.C. has the largest availability of wood biomass in the country, with approximately 3.1 million cubic meters of potential forest tenure available for use as biomass for energy.