Green Energy


NEOSCIA Biomass Conference

Five top-notch speakers were featured on a “panel of experts” at this April 20 Earlton Farm Show event. The talk started with Greg Zimmerman from the Soo (Michigan side). He has significant experience with pelletizing and burning Reed Canary Grass (RCG) as an energy source. It has an energy content of about 8000 BTU/# with production averaging 1T/ac. Note that 3ac.of RCG, has an equivalent energy to 800 gal. of propane.

Grass is easy to grow, harvest, and pelletize, but it is not a mature industry compared to wood pelletizing. There is still a question of energy efficiency andpayback, depending on the going price of commercial fuels.

Harvest the material in late fall (November). Grind it in a hammer mill operated by tractor PTO at 750 RPM. Becareful not to let the fines escape. Then pelletize while the material is hot, as it won’t stick when it is cold. RCG also needs a binder added to create solid pellets, as grass does not have the natural binder found in wood. You can add either 1 gal of hammered cardboard (a wood product) OR 800 ml. of spent brewers grain to every 5 gal of RCG. Commercial binders are also available.

RCG will produce more ash than wood, and although these pellets are less dense than wood, there is lots of heat. The benefit to the farmer is that RCG is often a highly productive “weed” specie that grows well on marginal land and can be put to work with little investment.

Ross McLeod, also from the Soo, (but working on the Ontario side for the Sault Ste Marie Innovation Center, or SSMIC.) is involved in alder and willow biofibre studies for short crop rotations. He is currently evaluating harvest methods for speckled alder on abandoned fields, and looking at the specie as a plantation crop. He has also been involved in feedstock testing of ag. residue such as industrial hemp, flax and RCG. Keep track of his work by visiting the SSMIC website!

The ideas presented by OMAFRA rep, Dr. Ian McDonald, are on page 11 of this issue.

Dennis Whiddifield of Cook Engineering in Thunder Bay spoke on Switchgrass pellets and corn stover “Briquetting”. The Briqett process will densify a product and create a better fuel source by reducing water content, (also reducing shipping charges). It also decreases the need for a rain shelter for the product. The Briq is best for corn stover as it requires less grinding and the larger pieces are better for Ag industries that use stover for products other than fuel. They only need to be dried to 15% moisture (vs 10% for pellets), and they do not need after-process cooling. However, Briq presses only do 2-3 T/hr., vs 5-8T/hr. for pelletizers.

Switchgrass is a model energy crop for NW Ontario as it is native. After establishment it will give 10 years of growth at 4 to 5 T/ ac.(2x to 3x the yield of wood biomass) with lower moisture.

Fall harvested switch is high in ash content and can form “clinkers” in a furnace, while the grass phosphate and chlorine content can cause corrosion. These problems can be resolved by SPRING harvesting. There will be a 50% biomass loss, but this is the leaf which goes back to the field as organic soil matter.

Don McCabe of the OFA gave a rousing talk on the impact of government policy via the Green Energy Act. He insisted that farmers hold out for at least $150/T before considering the sale of bio-products. He feels that corn stalks should always be left in the field, but cobs can be sold. Harvesting willow and similar plantations should also be OK. However, farmers must determine exactly how mush biomass can be removed from a field without soil degradation.

Under the “Act”, biomass, solar, and other new electrical energy systems are designed to give an 8-9% return on the investment. To improve on this, local communities should develop local (District) energy systems, as co-gen plants only use 25-35% of the energy burnt to produce electricity. The other 65-75% of the energy should be used to heat homes and hospitals, etc.

McCabe reminds us all that the only reason that Ontario is turning to Biofuel, solar, and wind is because of a 2003 election promise by Premier McGuinty. As such, farmers must be sure that they don’t shortchange themselves when dealing with OPG. Farmers MUST make a profit from all products they sell. Bottom line: search out the required information, do risk mitigation, follow the KISS principal and don’t sell until they show you the $$!



Kelly Bird–NEOSCIA intern

On October 1, 2009, Ontario Power Authority (OPA)announced their Ontario microFIT green energy program; micro meaning a 10 kilowatt system or less, and FIT standing for ‘Feed in Tariff’. This new green energy program has the potential to be extremely beneficial for any farmer, home owner, or small business owner. Why you may ask? The microFIT programs, allows a home owner to place their own environmental energy project on their property to feed directly into the Ontario grid. In doing so one is not only helping the environment by producing green energy, but more importantly, one will be making extra earnings. Withthis project, any land owner, with an electricity meter on their property ,can sign a twenty year, fixed contract, with OPA to receive 80.2 cents a kilowatt; this works out to be anywhere between $10 000-$17 000 extra earnings a year, depending on your location and energy project.

One of the more popular choices of microFIT energy projects is installing solar panels. Solar panels have the potential to be placed on roofs, pastures, backyards, or where ever sun light is able to come in contact with the panel. Keep in mind during the winter, the panels do not produce as much electricity, but the rest of the year makes them extremely worth while.

In addition, solar panels are very expensive to purchase, but, there are more expensive green energy projects to dive into, for example wind turbines. Thus, one is looking at a six year period of time before the solar panel is completely paid off; this estimate is coming from the direct profits made from the solar panel system. However, there is another fourteen years to turn an additional income.

The main push for OPA’s energy project is to develop new jobs and increase the economy within Ontario and on larger scale Canada. It is very important to note that Ontario uses more electricity per capita then anywhere else in the world. Therefore, to be able to reap the benefits of microFIT program, forty per cent of the entire solar panel system must be made in Ontario; this number will increase to sixty per cent within the next year.

When looking for the perfect solar panel system and installation process, look for warranties, and clearly, the longer the warranty, the better off you are. In addition, only one 10 kilowatt system is allowed per civic address. If you are interested in taking on your own, solar panel, energy project adventure, first thing is first, get yourself into the ‘Q’ by going to



Graham Gambles– Regional Communications Coordinator

Effective March 01, 2010, Farm Credit Canada is offering a new loan to farm operators who are considering the use of renewable energy sources in their business. The “Energy Loan” will help producers and agribusiness operators purchase and install on-farm energy sources like biogas, geo-thermal, wind and solar power. The loan offers a variable or fixed interest rate, valid for a term up to 5 years.

A recent “FCC Vision Survey” of over 1100 individuals and agribusinesses showed that 37% of the respondents are looking at reducing their environmental footprint by implementing the use of renewable energy options in their operation, and 60% of those surveyed are “considering new ways to find financial value by reducing their environmental impact”.

Speak to an FCC representative at the 2010 Earlton Farm Show, April 9 & 10.


The Biomass Innovation Conference

Kelly Bird– NEOSCIA intern

The Biomass Innovation Conference was held at Nipissing University on October 22nd and 23rd. The main focus of the conference was on the future of the forestry industry in conjunction with biomass. None the less, some of the concepts and ideas that were discussed are transferable to the agricultural industry. The general theme of the conference in relation to agriculture is how to market biomass pellets, and the risks involved with producing a pellet. It is also important to note Ontario Power Generation’s participation in cofiring with biomass.

Many people are unaware of biomass pellets and some are very skeptical of them, due to a lack of knowledge of pellets, a pellet shortage last winter, and a bad reputation which they have received from a lack of standards. As discussed by Dr. John Nadeau a marketing professor from Nipissing University, in order to market a pellet, one must change the publics view and opinion of pellets through how they are advertised; the public must be informed on the beneficial aspects of burning biomass products. For example, it is valuable to mention the environmental impact of burning pellets for heat and energy, and that they are considered to be ‘carbon neutral’. This means that once the pellet is burned the carbon which goes back into the air is equal to the carbon which has been already extracted. It also important to align one’s biomass product vwith a stove which can burn specific pellets; a wood pellet stove often does not have the capabilities to use an agricultural pellet.

As well, in order to market them within Ontario, it is vital for the government to become involved by assisting farmers/growers in creating carbon taxes and incentives to burn pellets, and producing a standardized pellet system, much like the Pellet Fuels Institute based out of the United States. Carbon taxes already exist within Alberta, but often carbon taxes do not apply to the manufacture of the pellets but to the person or organization that burns the pellet. Standardized pellet regulations currently do not ‘officially’ exist within Canada, similar to wood chips. It is important to have these standards so that the buyer knows what they are receiving. In addition, different types of pellets have different efficiencies in different stoves.

Currently the major market for pellets is in Europe because they have been using pellets as a heat and energy source in communities for twenty plus years. There also would be a much larger demand for agricultural pellets in Europe because of the lack of forests and forestry bi-products which are available to them: Europeans have already been burning agricultural pellets in their stoves.

An agricultural pellet has a higher ash and mineral content then a wood pellet. The high mineral content creates erosion within a stove and the high ash, silica and mineral contents combined creates‘clinkers’ which block air ducts within the stove. Agricultural pellets when burned can potentially create a lot more work for the user because stoves need to be cleaned on a constant basis. It is also important to realize that one cannot take European made stoves and use or sell them within Canada. There are different standards for every Province on stoves/ heating units, and each individual part of a stove/heating unit must be looked over and deemed acceptable by a different engineer from every Province before they can be placed on the market. This was discussed by Lawrence Burndrett fromn Pressure Vessel Engineering.

Chris Young, who is the vice president of fossil projects for the Ontario Power Generation, was also a speaker at the conference. The Ontario Power Generation has not come out and officially announced their plans for the future of coal plants, however what they have announced so far appears to be a positive for both the agricultural and forestry industry. As well, OPG will create the greatest need and market for biomass because of the huge amount they will need to produce energy.

They ultimately plan on co-firing with biomass and gas. They have completed their study at Atikokan and it will be the first plant converted over to biomass. At this plant they tested with wood pellets, and went to hundred per cent power just on pellets. At the plant in Nanticoke, they have test with wheat shorts which had fusarium and at various other plants they have tested with oat hulls and grain screenings. However, OPG has stated that they will not use any product which can potentially be used as food.

Looking at the future of biomass within Ontario, we have a far way to go, but we are going in a positive direction. We have the desirable resources available to us to make biomass a success. If you are interested in viewing videos of the speakers from the conference please connect to them via Temiskaming Crops Coalition’s blog,


Biomass for Fuel: Where are the Opportunities?

Graham Gambles– Regional Communications Coordinator

At the 2009 Annual General Meeting of the OSCIA in Niagara Falls, two speakers addressed the issues around the opportunities that have developed for a “Biomass” industry. They were Chris Young of “Ontario Power Generation” (OPG) and Dean Tiessen of “Pyramid Farms Ltd.”, based in Leamington.

Young pointed out that OPG currently has 7 coal fired generators operating in the Province, including two in north-western Ontario. Due to a change in government policy, all seven must find alternative sources of fuel by 2014, if they are to continue operation. A test program run at the Atikokan plant proved that wood biomass was an excellent replacement for coal at that facility. It is very compatible with the furnaces that were designed to burn the low quality form of coal known as “Lignite”. This generator is now scheduled to run completely on Biomass, starting in 2012.

There are 6 reasons why the Province should switch from coal to Biomass. This product is renewable and available on demand. There is no “net” greenhouse gas emissions and it therefore contributes to a lower carbon future for the Province. It has a synergy with both the Forestry and Agriculture industries. Most importantly, it will make use of the existing coal fired generators that would otherwise be closed by 2014. OPG does have a few policies that will apply to this new operation. First, they will not burn food crops – grain corn, for example. Second, wood fuel and agricultural products must be obtained by a sustainable harvest method. The Biomass must be obtained with a minimum negative impact on consumers.

In 2008, OPG had offered an initial “Request For Expression of Interest” for the purchase of a small biomass supply. Many more offerings will come in the future. OPG is expected to require 20% of the “current” world supply of fuel Biomass by 2014. Therefore, the opportunities are great for both the Agriculture and Forestry industries. However, OPG does not want to deal directly with individual suppliers. They would prefer to work with an aggregation of smaller producers, generally known in the farm community as “Co-ops”.

The basic requirement is that the fuel must be delivered to the OPG facilities as “Pellets” or “Pucks”. It can be either wood or agricultural products. It can not be material that can be used in the food chain, and it can not be officially designated as waste (such as manure or household garbage).

Time is of the essence. The supply contracts must be in place by 2011 to meet the OPG changeover timetable. Contracts will assure a reasonable return for all involved. The contract term could be 10 to 20 years. For more info, see the web at

Dean Tiessen, a greenhouse tomato producer, has been using wood biomass to heat his facility since 2006. He has found that all biomass energy sources have both advantages and disadvantages. Most agricultural biomass species are “unimproved” and undergo basic harvesting at any moisture level. Perennial grasses are high yielders, even with low inputs. They can be harvested in the fall in a relatively dry state and easily held over the winter. There is a great difference in yield between specific varieties of plants, ranging from 4 to 40 dry tonne per hectare. Remember that a high carbon content is essential for a high BTU value for any specie. Conversely, a high nutrient content (as in many agricultural products) is considered to be a negative as it leads to more ash and even corrosion of the burners.

There are a number of “improved” plant species that maybe major players as a biomass fuel crop sometime in the future. One example is “Amouri”, that is said to be highly productive. A species called “Miscanthus”,(currently being tested at Ridgetown) has the same energy content as wood, but grows faster under specific conditions. It must be planted by “plug” with specific equipment already developed in Europe. Note that Monsanto has bought all the seed rights to this species and is now upgrading the seed quality and fuel output of this plant.

As for any crop, economic production depends on climate, soils, and the species grown. The crops must be sustainable and have a positive energy balance. Can it be done? YES! The industry exists and the scalability has been proven in Europe over more than two decades. The Ontario hurdles include government policy, infrastructure development, marketing, and a guaranteed return on investment.


Woody Crops for Biomass Production

Graham Gambles– Regional Communications Coordinator

At the North Bay Wood Pellet Forum, Rachelle Clinch of the Dept. of Environmental Biology at the University of Guelph, spoke on a project that is being carried out in partnership with the Canadian Forest Service. They are evaluating “Short Rotation” (20 year) woody crops for biomass production on quality #1 to #3 agricultural land.

The species tested are Poplar/Aspen hybrids. Two systems are being compared. The first involves planting stems at 3×3 meter spacing, growing them for 12 to 20 years before harvest. Development costs are projected at $3500 to $4000per Ha. The second involves dense planting of cuttings at a spacing of .6x.6 meters, at a much higher projected cost. The advantage to this second option is the fact that the shoots can be harvested every 3 or 4 years for a period of 20 years.

Harvesting would be done with a specific style of forage harvester, or with a harvester/shredder/baler system. The equipment has been proven elsewhere. Parts of northern Ontario would be suitable to growing these hybrids. (A test is being undertaken at the New Liskeard Research Station.) Willow is also being tested for Biomass production. Production tests on lower class lands (below #3) are not yet being done.


Filling the Need for Alternative Energy

Graham Gambles– Regional Communications Coordinator

The capacity crowd at the North Bay “Wood Pellet Forum” heard from many speakers. Here are the views of many of them…

Dr. Warren Mabee of Queen’s University noted that the modern wood pellet house stove is about 80 times more efficient than the open traditional fireplace. Similarly, modern industrial burners that combine flue gas recovery with heat and power production are about 80% efficient. Although Sweden derives about 35% of its heat from wood, Canada only gets 4% of its energy from wood. Most of this is recycled wood waste products, with only 20% of the wood burnt coming directly from the forest.

Curently, we have no idea how much “surplus” forest biomass is available for energy production. Same goes for agriculture. However, due to the 2008 economic collapse, we know that ethanol obtained from wood pulp is of significantly less value than traditional wood products made from pulp. It is also worth noting that ethanol made from straw usually produces about 10% less energy from an equivelent weight, but that the economic return will vary depending on the cost of processing.

Due to the fluctuating economic valuesof the raw material and the finished product, government should supply subsidies in the initial years of industry development. Similarly, rather than specifically using wood or agricultural biomass for energy production only, Canada needs to develop an overall “Bio-Refinery” system for the optimum use of these raw materials.

Jay Aspin of “Trade North Ontario” mentioned that a trade mission to Scandinavia in 2005 showed the huge opportunity that was available in producing energy from forest and agricultural sources. However, no one from Ontario was interested then. Today it is different. All of Canada wants to work with the Europeans on the coming opportunities.

He also noted that Nipissing University will be the depository of all available and developed Biomass information within the North-East region. While Canada has ignored the potential of biomass due to our dependency on relatively cheap and plentiful fossil fuels, Europe has developed the technology necessary to make use of available biomass. On the positive side, the Europeans have worked the kinks out of the equipment and we can now invest in high quality industrial equipment that will make our switch to biomass energy very efficient.

Ontario does have people available to design or upgrade the equipment necessary to meet our local needs. Glen Ruby of Timbercreek Farms develops high tech equipment that will turn sawdust into a pellet. The firm has designed equipment designed to “change tooling” very quickly in order to allow raw products (with unique characteristics) from various sources to be run through a single pelletizing plant. His equipment could run sawdust one day and switchgrass the next. One pelletizer can produce 3 T of pellets /hour, so cost per tonne of production is low. He believes that due to the huge demand and short time frame presented by the OPG changeover, there will be a huge investment in equipment over the next few years, Quality Hardwoods, a local company that produces Kiln dried hardwood, has already made the switch to pellets. Peter Van Amelsfoort said that the price for oil became so high in the past 2 years that it was essential to make the change in order to survive. He had considered developing a co-generation plant, but the cost and lengthy development time frame made it prohibitive.

He installed 2 “Dekkar” pellet-boiler systems (with scrubbers) that each give 35,000,000 BTU per hour with a hot water target of 195 F. He does keep the old oil burners for a back-up system, but the wood pellet burners saves over 50% of his fuel cost when heating oil is priced at $.80 per litre.

Claude Brisson of “Ecoflamme” spoke on the creation of “Renewable Energy Clusters”. This is a concept that is widely used in Europe in order to keep the money circulating as much as possible within a specific region. In northern Ontario, a project in any given District would have 5 basic components. These are :

1. develop biomass recovery techniques

2. develop biomass pellet factories

3. develop distribution lines

4. encourage installation of home and industrial pellet burners (or generators)

5. train and hire technical personnel to maintain equipment

The raw material could come from either the forest or farm, and recognizes that due to the high cost of transportation, projects should be developed that meet the needs of a specific local population.

Roland Kilpatrick of the National Research Council noted that out of necessity, Sweden became a leader in Biomass energy as they had no fossil fuel reserves. They now have “district” heating systems in every community with a population over 10,000. Their climate is similar to Canada, so their Biofuel heating system is probably replicable here. We have an advantage. Canada is already the worlds largest exporter of wood pellets, although almost all of these come from B.C. The current world consumption is 10 million tonnes per year.

A wood fibre pellet has a high energy density of 40#/cu.ft. and burns at 8000 BTU per pound. Conifer trees have more energy than deciduous, and straw is in third place. However, canola straw producers 25% more energy than conifers! Industrial hemp is known to be very productive in terms of mass, but the energy output is not available.

Modern pellet stoves are up to 95% efficient and furnaces for the home have modern, low-labour fuel delivery systems. It is worth noting that Montreal is considering a ban on all wood burning stoves and fireplaces with the exception of the modern pellet burner.


Renewable Energy Workshop

Sharon Lane–Regional Correspondent

The Community Renewable Energy Workshop & Trade Show was held at the Echo Bay Community Hall on Thursday, November 20 with near full capacity. The workshop was sponsored by Upper Lakes Environmental Research Network (ULERN), Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA), Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, Innovation Initiatives Ontario North (IION), Tulloch Consulting Group, Great Lakes Power Limited, and the Township of MacDonald, Meredith and Aberdeen Additional.

The objectives of the workshop, according to David DeYoe of ULERN, were to explore options, inform and enable people to make informed decisions.

The challenges are that the options include all energy: renewable, finite and recyclable. The shift to renewable energy is being driven by global sustainability. The population increase has put a strain on the planet because there is more demand for energy and at the same time water has been depleted and pollution has increased. The overuse of the natural resources of the planet has caused a change in climate. Climate change is one global threat. The last 20,000 years saw a temperature change of 5 to 6 degrees; the last 150 years with the first Industrial Revolution in Europe and North America and the second one in China and Japan has increased the carbon dioxide and this has increased the globe’s temperature. This warmer climate in Ontario will caused a different forest in our area. nPlants and animals cannot adapt in the 35-55 years that the change has come, so they are stressed. This problem can be seen in Northern British Columbia where the Mountain Pine beetle has invaded the lodge pole pine. A drought stressed these trees and now they are now under attack by the beetle. An area twice the size of New Brunswick has been destroyed. The Mountain Pine Beetle is moving eastward and will attack the Jack pine in the Boreal forest. Population of the globe has increased due to advancements in technology. Both China and India are industrializing and putting demands on energy.

Mr. DeYoe suggested that these global threats could also be opportunities. Mr. DeYoe stated that Canada is the third highest consumer of energy in the world.

Canadians have to change their energy consumption by becoming more efficient, greener or more compact, that is by moving into cities.

Peter Gagnon from ULERN spoke on “Energy Conservation First”. He said that sustainable energy means conserving energy, improving efficiency and using renewable sources of energy. He gave statistics to show that Ontarians are the “energy hogs of the world”. Ontario households use 10 000 kw hours per year while households in the Netherlands use 3000 kw hours per year. The Government of Ontario will pay 50 % or up to $150,000 for a Home Energy Audit to show where energy is lost and what can be done to conserve it.

In speaking on” Renewable Energy Options – Biomass”, David DeYoe mentioned that there is biomass from the forest, farm and city. Forest biomass could include slash, sawdust, and any nonmerchantable wood. Farm biomass could include switchgrass, willow, grain, straw or hay. There is about 1.2 million acres of unused land in Ontario to grow crops for biomass. Animals can also produce alternative energy. Manure can produce gas that in turn can be used to produce heat. Cities have garbage that can be used to generate energy.

Roberto Garcia from Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA) spoke on geothermal, solar, wind, and small hydro energy sources. Geothermal includes steam or hot water in earthquake areas and earth energy using water or heat from the ground. He stated that solar energy could replace coal generation for peak energy consumption periods. He mentioned that there are more jobs created with developing wind energy than any other forms of energy.

To conclude the workshop, Mr. DeYoe restated that threats can be opportunities and the first step in conserving energy should be at home and in our businesses.


A New Cash Crop for Farmers?

There is no question that 2008 was a watershed year for everyone. From the standpoint of skyrocketing fuel prices to the crash of the stockmarket, from political upheaval (on both sides of the border) to significant unemployment among the masses, could there be any good to come of it all? Apparently “YES”, if you are a farmer. The by-products that we have always considered to be “waste” will soon have a monetary value, at least here in Ontario. Here are some ideas collected at the “Emerging Opportunities with Wood Pellets Forum” held in North Bay on March ‘05.

It all stems from the development of the “Green Energy Act” initiated by the Ontario government. Currently before the legislature, the Act will establish conservation and renewable energy as a top priority for the government when procuring new supplies of energy for the Province. It will also enable Communities, First Nations, and Farmers (among others) to become energy producers. The government will legislate fair prices over the long term for renewable energy and GUARANTEE that it can be sold via the provincial energy network.

Case in point. Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has been ordered to close all of their coal fired plants by 2014 at the latest. They have the option to switch from coal to BIOMASS as a fuel source. At their Atikokan plant, OPG has experimented with the burning of wood “Pellets” as an alternative fuel. Worked like a charm! Result? OPG is now seeking suppliers of wood pellets, as well as any other type of Biomass that can be pelletized and burnt. Atikokan will be the first biofuel energy producer, slated for operation in 2012. By 2014, OPG will require 20% of the current world supply of pellets.

So what does that do for the farmer? First, if you own a bushlot, the leftove woody waste from a cutting operation can be collected and sent to a pelletizer (many of which will be built in the next few years). Your excess hay bales can be pelletized. A field of straw can be harvested and sold as profit. A weedy field can be fertilized and managed for maximum CARBON production, rather than for feed quality. Provided that it is not a food crop, OPG will accept any biomass as a fuel pellet. Even the chaff and weed seeds.

The key is pelletizing and combustion in a modern burner, no matter if it is a home pellet stove or an OPG facility. The biomass is ground fine, and reformed as a pellet that looks similar to some chicken or rabbit feeds. As a pellet, both softwood and hardwood contain a similar energy content of about 8000BTU per pound. Agricultural biomass such as straw has a 25% lower energy content, but energy is source dependent.

A note of caution, however. Some Agricultural biomass sources (such as straw) are known to have a higher ash content than wood, and also have negative mineral content (such as silica) associated with them. Farm bioproducts can also be highly corrosive on the burners, compared to wood. There is much that is not known locally, but remember that this technology has been used for over 2 decades in Europe, especially Scandinavia. The info is out there!

To this end, NEOSCIA has approached “Fed Nor” to seek financing to hire a university graduate “Intern” for a one year position, starting this spring. The individual will determine the potential for farm biomass production for ENERGY in every farm community in the 8 Districts that make up the NEOSCIA region. Do you know a suitable candidate for this job? The individual must be under 30, graduating within the past 3 years from an appropriate university course. The position will be located in New Liskeard. Have the individual contact NEOSCIA President, Janet Parsons (705) 753-0730, immediately.

WINTER 2008/2009

Farming Energy Crops on Tailings

Alan Locke, Graeme Spiers, and Brian Tisch

Industrial and municipal organic residuals are being utilized to rehabilitate mine tailings to the extent that they can support the growth of biomass and “energy crops” such as canola, corn and switchgrass, which can be harvested to provide feedstock for biofuel processing plants. Experimental ½ hectare plots on mine tailings in Timmins and Copper Cliff were amended with approximately 1metre (uncompacted) of organic residuals fromthe pulp and paper industry and corn and canola were planted in early July, 2008. A control site was established in Azilda on agricultural land to compare crop yield and quality between the experimental sites and traditional agricultural land. A third tailings plot in Onaping has been amended with municipal organic residuals and the first crops will be planted in the spring 2009.

The Mining Innovation and Rehabilitation Applied Research Corporation (MIRARCO), owned by Laurentian University, is leading this research in Northern Ontario under the Green Mines Green Energy (GMGE) initiative lead by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). The research is primarily supported through mining and pulp and paper industries, municipal, provincial and federal governments, with advisory input from members of the OSCIA Sudbury Chapter.

This research initiative is focused on the potential impact of organic covers on tailings chemistry, tailings groundwater quantity, the quality and quality of biomass produced, overall feasibility (full scale), communications, public education and technology transfer. Because we are in the early stages of this research there is currently insufficient data to elucidate the potential impact of organic covers on these tailings. Field measurements and visual observations indicate crops grown on the experimental plots exceed or produce similar quantities of biomass compared to the agricultural control plot in the Sudbury region. The observed crop quality appears similar at both the experimental and control sites, but analytical results to confirm this have not yet been completed. Full scale farm management feasibility has been proven through tilling and seeding with standard agricultural equipment at the plot in Copper Cliff, but has so far proven difficult at the Timmins plot. Communications, public education and technology transfer efforts will continue through scientific articles, regional news publications, conference presentations, and meetings with interested groups, and possibly site tours. A more detailed review of this project can be obtained at

Please note that Summer 2008 was dedicated to Green Energy/Technology Innovations inspired by the Canadian Energy Expo. All Green Articles from this issue were written by Graham Gambles, the Regional Communications coordinator for the NEOSCIA. 


Hydrogen Combustion Enhancement

Contact INNOVATIVE HYDROGEN SOLUTIONS INC. of Winnipeg (204-786-6392) or fordetails on this development that has just come out of the gate! If you are a farmer who is also involved in trucking, or perhaps uses tractors and combines, etc, extensivly, you have a new option for reducing monthly fuel bills. Here is the gist of it:

We have all heard of the (Ballard) fuel cell technology that uses hydrogen to create electricity. It is not ready for market yet, but here is an alternative use for hydrogen in the short term. Apparently applying some hydrogen into an engines internal combution chamber provides cleaner burning of the fuel, lower fuel consumption (by 10 to 20%) and 8% more horsepower and torque along with longer engine life and lower maintenance costs.

This company has developed a small hydrogen generator that produces hydrogen on demand. It is an on-board module that is an easy retrofit for anyinternal combustion engine. The unit uses the process of electrolysis to seperate water into hydrogen and oxygen by applying an electric current. The only modification to the engine is a small hole in the air intake manifold that allows the delivery of the hydrogen. The system is safe as hydrogen is only available on demand when the engine is running, therefore there is no need for on-board storage tanks.

It is a design targeted for the railway, marine, mining, and transportation industry, but it could certainly be used on the farm as well. Is this a place where OSCIA could do some environmental studies on the value of this new technologyin the farm community?


The Energy Controller

Here is an interesting idea that you will definatly have to research further on your own! Go to for the background.

The identified problem is that “up to 25% of the billable electricity consumed in homes and businesses is non-productive and unusable. Most AC motors operate at 80% efficiency, and that efficiency drops dramatically at lower loads. This non-productive energy wastes money and also shortens the life of inductive equipment such as motorsm HVAC equipment, pumps and major appliences.”

The proposed solution is to install an “energy controller” to the top breaker on a 100, 200, or 400 amp single or three phase electrical service panel. The unit “fine tunes electrical systems to reduce non productive and wasted electricity, giving you cost-effective energy”. Note that qualified electricians only should perform all installation work.


Home Energy Audits

The federal government is currently offering an incentive of up to $5000 for upgrading a home for energy efficiency. The Ontario government is willing to match this grant dollar for dollar, plus pay 50% of your initial energy audit, up to $150. The key to the program is the Home Energy Audit that is done by a certified professional. You are provided with a personalized Energy Efficiency Evaluation Report and a plan that will lower your home energy costs. This plan will show how energy efficient your house can be with energy saving retrofits.

Samples of the rebates include insulating your attic $1200), Install a solar domestic hot water system ($1000) install ENERGY STAR qualified windows ($60/unit) insulate basement ($2000) install low flush toilets ($100) install electronic thermostats ($60) install a certified ground or water-source heat pump ($7000). More rebates are available.

To find a Government of Canada certified Home Energy Auditor, consult your “Yellow Pages” or search the web under <> to find a list of certified auditors.


Combining The Systems

All the alternate energy promoters at Woodstock agreed on a few points. First among them is that the start-up costs for each alternative is not cheap. They also agree that your best return on the loonie is to develop a program of energy conservation first. (Plug the holes in your house!) For every $1.00 spent on conserving, you save up to $5.00 in generating equipment costs.

Each new alternative has its strength and weaknesses. After reading about all the opportunities, it may make more sense to combine two or more technologies to produce a superior package for your individual needs. HYBRID ECOWATTS (call Ralph or Bob at 519-461-1315/1915) focus on packaging renewable energies together. They can combine systems that include wind generation, geothermal, or solar systems to meet the individual needs. They do a full range of site location, planning, engineering, construction, implementation, and technical advice. They can get your system grid inter-connected, enable you to exist totally off-grid, or assist in your development of a Standard Offer Contract.

Green technology now provides many opportunities for the landowner. Using the sun, wind, and heat of the earth is viable and economically beneficial in the long run. It is up to each of us to determine how these options can be best used in our lives.


Solar Hot Water Heaters

John Rood of ZOLARAYZ ( spoke on the use of Apricus solar collectors for people and businesses that require lots of hot water. This Chinese made evacuated glass tube system has recently shown a significant decrease in purchase costs. All interior pipes are copper to allow for the high heat of the glycol solution that passes through the collector in daily conditions.

The collectors are easily installed on roofs (or walls), usually at an angle of 60 degrees to reduce snow build-up and maximize winter energy potential. This angle also reduces energy collection in summer, a time when the units collect too much energy for normal needs. It is common to bleed off extra hot water to swimming pools and even into ground water at this time, due to the efficiency of the system. (Note that there are also solar pool heaters designed specifically for this one use.)

The units are affected by humidity. It is possible that more radiation may be received in the clear sky of January than in the hazy skies of a humid July. The main difference however is the length of daylight in winter. Therefore hot water must be collected in winter in an energy storage tank that should be located within 150 feet of the unit.

Apricus is just one of a number of solar hot water collectors, but it is one of the most efficient. For further research, go to Google and search for the solar ratings of various collectors, then compare production to costs.

Besides providing up to 75% of hot water supply (depending on the season), the collector can be used for supplying radiant heat energy to any building. Temperature of the water under ideal conditions can reach 120 degrees C. The design is maintenance free and will even withstand hailstorms. They are currently in use around the world.



Do you have a poorly lit room on your upper floor? U.L.Lovett Inc.of London (ask for Darryl at 519-451-2759) has the answer The device is installed on the roof and transmits over 99% of the sunlight down a highly reflective tube into the room below. Depending on the size of the room to be lit, the tube diameter varies from 10 inches (200 sq.ft. room) to 14 inches (300 Although easiest to install on an upper story, the tube can add light to a basement as well, as it can be extended as much as 30 feet.

Lovett also handles a Solar powered attic fan. After installation, it is free to operate and moves up to 800CFM. As for all attic ventilators, the device removes excess heat and moisture from the structure. The advantage with this unit is that it does not require an electrical thermostat or a humidistat. It works daily, as soon as the sun comes up, providing continual aeration. Both the attic fan and the solartube are said to work well in the winter, even under minor levels of snow build-up.


Retro-Fitting Yard Lights

Is your traditional yard light still sucking energy? Whether it be incandescent, mercury or sodium, you can be sure that it is because it gives off heat into the environment. You no longer need to heat the great outdoors by switching to L.E.D. lighting. O.D.D.S. Enterprises Inc. of Tillsonburg ( have the Canadian distribution rights to an all new high powered LED light bulb. Over the past year they have been working with the cities of North Bay and Tillsonburg to test these lights as Street Light retrofits. The idea is to keep the old light fixture and just replace the lamp.

A 45 watt LED replaces a 150 watt HPS unit. You save on power as LED operates in the cold state. LED bulbs also last about 50,000 hours. These units could also be used in areas where light is required but operational heat is unwanted, such as a cold storage. ODDS also carries a line of Compact Fluorescent Lamps that replace HID lighting. They can be used in commercial and industrial settings. They save energy up to 60% and bulbs last 10,000hours, giving off little or no heat.

Both types of lighting could possibly be eligible under future EFP programs. They might possibly be used in all barns, garages, greenhouses and virtually any farm facility.


Geothermal Energy

Most of us consider geothermal energy as a resource that we in Ontario cannot tap into. Traditionally, it was only possible to use this option where hot springs were available (Banff) or if you are sitting on top of a volcano (Iceland). Seems we were wrong!

Today, wi th the development of “Geothermal Exchange” energy systems, it appears that all of the developed part of Ontario is in a zone that can make use of the technology. Only a few feet below the soil surface (just below the frost line), the ground temperature remains consistantly above freezing. In southern Ontario, this level averages about 7 degrees C. In the north, it will be a couple of degrees cooler, but still adequate for the new technology.

In fact, the Canadian and Ontario governments are so excited about this energy opportunity that they are willing to subsidize the installment of the systems in a duet amounting to $7000 in value. This opportunity is found as part of the Home Energy Audit program. It is also an opportunity that seems to be designed specifically for the farm home.

Here is the catch. Although the systems can provide about 70% of your annual heat requirements, they do require a fairly extensive area to install the “underground earth loop”. This is a piping system that requires about one acre of land to be dug up to a depth of 5 or 6 feet so that adequate energy can be collected from the ground. This could work in pre-development stages of subdivisions, but it is not likely to be to be used in traditional urban residential areas, especially when landscaping is already in place.

However, as farmers, one of the things that we usually have plenty of is cleared land close to the house. No problem digging out a trench here to install the underground piping. In fact, many of us already have the equipment to do the job! Following is a little more background information from Chad Brezynski of GEOSMART ( that might encourage you to consider this option.

In winter, the flexible underground loops of “piping” collect heat from the ground and delivers it to the heat pump, located inside the building. The heat pump compresses the heat and transfers it into a standard forced air heating system. Each Kw of power used to operate the system draws more than 4 Kw of “free” energy from the ground, so the system produces more energy than it uses. It averages 400 to 500% efficiency over the season. This translates to 80 % of your heating energy coming from the earth, and the rest being supplied by electricity to run the system. The massive savings in home heating oil or propane are very apparent, and its simpicity and ease of operation is an advanatge over wood furnaces.

The underground loops are filled with a 75% water, 25% ethanol mix and carry a 55 year warrenty. the heat exchanger has a 20 to 25 year life expectancy, similar to a standard furnace. Payback is in the 5 to 7 year range for a standard size home. There are 33,000 units currently installed in Canada, about 1/3 of them in Ontario. The largest system in the north is at Elliot Lake, where a retirement centre is heated by this technology.

Once installed, geothermal energy can do more than heat a building. It can also provide summer air conditioning and attachments can be added to supply your hot water needs.

Two other systems beyond the horizontal land based loop are possible. If you have a moderatly deep pond (that does not freeze solid) close to the house, the system could be installed in it, absorbing water heat to run the operation. Similarly, an abandoned deep well could be used to vertically install the piping. (Note that if dry, the well would be backfilled with bentonite to give the piping superior contact with the surrounding ground, thereby promoting the exchange of heat.) Here in the North, some farms even have abandoned, water filled mine shafts on the property, and these could be used as a heat sink to run the system.

Each homeowner is cautioned that the building itself should be as energy efficient as possible. Plug the holes and add insulation first! The geothermal system is proven to work, but greater economic benefits may be achieved in improving the energy worthiness of the structure involved.


Solar Photovoltaic Energy Farms

Here is one for those of you who have an entreprenurial drive! Switch your farm to producing energy rather than food production! Although a pilot project is now open in southern Ontario, there may be more opportunities in the northern part of the Province.

The Ontario staff of ARNTJEN SOLAR NA ( outlined both the potential and limitations of producing solar power in Ontario. This German company has recently taken up residence in Ontario, and is looking for partners. It is all based on the 2006 anouncement by the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) that a “Standard Offer Program” (SOP) will purchase renewable solar energy at a rate of $0.42 /kWh delivered to the grid under a 20 year contract. This was designed for smaller and community based projects, but many individuals and companies have seen the potential and the system has been deluged with entrepreneurs.

The basics of what you need to enter this guarenteed market are simple enough. Cheap land values and close access to a major power supply line with room in its wire to add a few more jolts of energy! There is the sticking point. Although almost 200 proposals have come in to Hydro One, only a single contract has been awarded. It seems that the wires in southern Ontario just can’t take any more power! The line from Sudbury to the south is similarly clogged. As such, Hydro One has put the SOP on hold until fall 2008, to figure out the direction that should be taken.

Let us assume that the program will be back in the fall, and perhaps even more beneficial to the energy producer. The rest of northern Ontario beyond Sudbury seems available for expansion. What do you have to do to evaluate your property for solar electrical production?

1. Find out from Hydro One if there is still feed-in capacity at your location.

2. Start an Initial Feasibility Study with a local power company. This will take 6 months.

3. Complete the agreements with the local power company.

4. File the appropriate contract applications.

5. Get municiple and official plan approvals

6. Select an experienced “solar-integrator”.

7. Get financing in place. ArntjenSolar has developed their “SunSaver1” pilot project at Innerkip, just north of Woodstock. It is a 113kWp solar farm consisting of 54 active solar trackers consisting of 12 “Mono-Si solar modules” with a peak capacity of 2.1kWp each”. Annual energy production will be about 196,000 kWh with a revenue of about $467,000 per year on a small acreage. However, equipment is expensive and the payback period is expected to be 11 years. Still interested? Call the company at 866-Arntjen. ALTERNATIVE ENERGY OPTIONS


Energy Efficient Housing

The most experienced and dramatic speaker of the event was Jeff Culp of the Woodstock based OXFORD MEDIA GROUP <http://www.oxfordmediagroup.comJeff is also the G.M. of SUPER E OFFICE <> with many years of experience in designing and retrofitting homes for environmental improvements. Consider his approach to evaluating the energy efficiency of the urban home and apply his ideas to the farm house!

First, you have to understand the attributes of your dwelling. What is the home’s energy consumption? An average house heated with only electricity will use 23,400Kwh/yr. Natural gas is less efficient and uses 42,500kwh/yr. (Home heating oil or propane is even less efficient.)

What are the physics of heating? Heat goes from hot to cold areas, warm air rises, condensation occurs when warm air hits cold surfaces, warm air holds more moisture than cold air, and all particles move from areas of high to low concentrations. Furthermore, a house is an ecological system that involves heat, air and moisture flow.

You need to think of the WHOLE house as a UNIT to provide human health, comfort, and peace of mind.

Heat flow happens by conduction, convection, and radiation. The rate of heat loss in winter is dependent on the size of the house, the temperature difference between inside and out, the thermal resistance of the barrier, and the air leakage through this barrier, which is the combined shell of the house.

Air flow through the house is dependent on 3 factors that work at the same time. First, wind effect is air movement going through the house. Next, stack effect (winter) refers to the air pushing out of the house. Third, the chimney and venting fans provide a flue and ventilation effect.

Moisture flow is dependent on gravity, capilliary action (through brick and concrete), air leakage, and diffusion through all building materials. (Much of this can be stopped by polyethelene sheets.)

The National Research Council in Ottawa has done extensive research on improving the energy efficiency of Canadian homes. This is in response to the re-insulation experiences of the 1970,s, when a radical increase in the price of fuel led to some nasty experiences including moulds and general “house sickness” from enclosed chemicals in an overly air-tight house.

Mould can be caused simply by replacing a furnace. Old inefficient ones send more moisture up the chimney, but new high efficiency units reduce air exchange, allowing for more moisture on the walls and ceiling, or wherever hot inside air meets cold outside air. A house should have 30 to 55% relative humidity inside, yet adequate ventilation for control of air contaminents. Therefore you need mechanical “heat recovery ventilation” to control humidity, ventilation, and provide heat distribution, while being filtered to reduce contaminents.

Air leakage is a major source of moisture loss. In Canada, poly is needed on the warm side of the wall to keep moisture inside. Interior surfaces must be warm enough to prevent condensation and resultant growth of mould. Traditional Canadian houses have a tendancy to be extreamly dry in winter because warm air holds more moisture AND this warm air is rapidly expelled through the roof in winter. On average, a house will lose 50% of

the heat available due to air leakage BUT you do not want to reduce air leakage to zero. All houses require ventilation balancing. The “R-2000” house is ideal with 1.5 air changes per hour, while the regular home has 10 to 30 air changes per hour.

Installing renewable energy sources may be the ideal ultimate change from using carbon based fuel, but it is a very expensive proposition compared to upgrading the house as a whole. An average upgrade for “air tightness” saves about $750 in energy annually. Air sealed windows provide an additional average saving of $150 per house.

Currently, the Canadian government offers $5000 in upgrading grants, and this is matched by the Ontario government.(see

What gadgets can help you achieve energy efficiency in the home? A drainwater heat recovery system (shower) can be retrofitted for $1000, and saves about $180/yr. Photoactivated window blinds can be used for winter night-time heat loses. (Note: use in the heat of summer can damage the windows themselves.) An “Ekocomfort” system that provides both water and space heating, as well as air conditioning and ventilation from one unit will save energy. A “Zone Comfort System” will save 25% of your heating costs by putting a thermostat on each floor in conjuction with a damper in the heating ventilation system.

Currently, there are a number of environmental add-ons that can be used to replace traditional energy sources, in whole or in part. All have both pro’s and con’s to their operation.

Geothermal heat pumps will both cool and heat a house and they are inexpensive to run. They will contribute up to 70% of your required heat. They are eligible for government grants. The exchange unit will last 25 years while the inground tubing should last at least twice as long. However, they are expensive to install and hard to retro-fit.

Direct solar air heating (corrugated metal wall) is cheap but lacks controls. Possible better use on garages and barns rather than houses.

Solar water heating can provide 75% of a households needs, and even works well in winter. It is best used where there is a huge demand for hot water, such as in hospitals, hotels, restaurants, elderly care facilities, or in houses with pools. The main problem is excess hot water in the summer that needs to be drained off. It needs a tank storage system for nighttime use.

Solar photovoltaic systems are efficient but expensive, and only work in daytime (although clouds are not a major problem). Used commonly in Europe, an area that is located further North (average 50 degrees latitude) than most of Ontario. Perhaps best used when energy is sold directly to Hydro One at an inflated price under the “Standard Offer Program” (SOP).

All direct solar energy may be next to free, but it requires a method of storage, and this component is expensive. Similarly, wind energy is proven reliable, and is available for a small price IF you have the adequate wind resources.

In the future, a “Stirling Engine” (external combustion engine) could be installed. This unit will use ANY heating source to generate electricity.

In conclusion, to obtain energy efficient housing, first reduce your energy load (and energy demand). Only then do you consider adding “renewable” energy at a level to meet your requirements and economical limitations.


Biodiesel Update

Crystal Baresich

What Is Biodiesel?

Biodiesel (B100) is a renewable fuel for diesel engines derived from natural oils, like soybean or canola oil that meets certain specifications known as ASTM D 6751.

It can be used in any concentration with petroleum based diesel fuel in existing diesel engines with little or no modification.Biodiesel is not the same thing as raw vegetable oil. It is produced by a chemical process which removes the glycerin from the oil.

Biodiesel Blend is a blend of B100 with petroleum-based diesel fuel, designated BXX, where XX represents the volume percentage of biodiesel fuel in the blend. For example, B20 is a blend where 20% by volume is biodiesel and 80% is petrodiesel.

What is Biodiesel Made From?

Biodiesel can be made from a variety of renewable sources such as vegetable oils (soybeans, canola or other crops), recycled cooking grease or animal fats. Each can produce a high quality B100 fuel, each with slightly different properties.Soybean oil is currently the most common source of biodiesel.

Why Should I Use Biodiesel?

Biodiesel is better for the environment because it is made from renewable resources and has lower emissions when compared to petroleum diesel. When we use petroleum,

100% of the CO2 released into the air is added to the net CO2 air levels. When we use biodiesel however, the net CO that is release into the air is reduced by up to 20% for B20 because it is reused by the next crop of soybeans, thus reducing the net CO2 released into the air.

Biodiesel is less toxic than table salt and biodegrades as fast as sugar. Since it i made from renewable resources such as soybeans, its use decreases our dependence on foreign oil.

Biodiesel in its pure form is completely biodegradable and non-hazardous. In tests performed by the University of Idaho, biodiesel in a water solution was 95 percent degraded after 28 days. Diesel fuel was only 40 percent degraded. When biodiesel was blended with diesel fuel, the degradation rate of the petroleum fuel tripled.

Biodiesel is also non-flammable, can be stored at ambient temperatures and can replace or blend with petroleum diesel with little or no engine modification.

Biodiesel provides an opportunity for farmers to create demand for the crops that they grow. Farmers recognize that biodiesel is a high-quality product to use in their farm equipment. Even low blends of biodiesel like B2 or B5offer exceptional lubricity, thus slowing engine wear and tear. B1 blends have been shown to increase lubricity by up to 65% over traditional diesel.

Biodiesel is a cleaner fuel and friendlier for the environment.

Energy Produced

One gallon of typical diesel No. 2 produces about 129,050 BTUs, whereas one gallon of B100 produces 118,170 BTUs, which is about 8% less energy. With B20 however, the difference in power and fuel economy should only be between 1% and 2% less and with lower blends, the differences in energy output become unnoticeable.

Uses of Biodiesel Today

With no modifications, a diesel engine can operate on biodiesel or blends of biodiesel in any ratio from 1-100%. It mixes readily at any blend level, making it very flexible. It can be blended with any kind of distillate or diesel fuel such as kerosene and heating oil for home heating. Since heating oil and dyed diesel can contain high levels of sulfur, blending can significantly reduce emissions.

The Portland Oregon Water Bureau recently began using a B99 blend in its fleet of 84 diesel powered vehicles in September of 2006. The Water Bureau has been using a B20 blend since August 2004. The vehicles that have been converted to B99 include backhoes, dump trucks, graders, excavators, water service trucks, welding and crane trucks, pick up trucks, compressors, forklifts, tractors, mowers, generators, work vans and some passenger vehicles. They have estimated the change to be almost cost neutral.

Their strategy is to use the B99 blend throughout the warmer months and B50 during the colder months from November on. They have had no major issues since raising the blend last fall.

Biodiesel in Cold Weather

Extremely cold weather may affect the performance of high blends (over 5%), although a lack of data is readily available on blends over this amount in cold weather. Blends of 5% have been typically used in our area.

Solutions for winter with biodiesel are similar to that of #2 diesel including using heaters and storing vehicles in buildings when not in use.

Cost of Biodiesel

Currently you can expect to pay a premium to purchase biodiesel for your operation, depending on the blend selected. UPI offers three blends to consumers: B2, B5 and B10. The price premium per litre for each of the blends over the dyed diesel is 1, 2 ½ and 5 cents respectively.

Participation by OSCIA

The OSCIA has been participating in a one year study on biodiesel blends beginning in March of 2006. There are six Ontario cooperators participating in the study, including Maurice Beaudry of Cache Bay.Cooperators have been evaluating a B5 blend in farm equipment and are responsible for keeping track of fuel usage, work type, hours logged and temperature conditions, as well as any issues they have experienced. To date, the cooperators have seen no noticeable differences in the power of equipment.


Farm Windmills:   From a Workshop by Glen Estill

(Sky Generation) at Farmsmart 2006 (Part 2)

Graham Gambles– Regional Communications Coordinator

The “Commercial” scale system needs an even larger farm land base to operate on, and is considerably more expensive to install. However, there is a greater opportunity of producing a profit under new changes to Ontario legislation, that occurred in March 2006. The Province now offers straight contracts for electrical generation by windmills. The value of generation is 11 cents per Kwh. This will allow for a rapid payback of investment costs to the producer. Bankers are expected to be favourable to this type of power generation,and MAY offer 50 to 75 percent financing on these projects. Cost per unit will probably be in the $3,000,000 plus range. In Northern Ontario, start up funding could be attained from the “FEDNOR” and Ontario’s “Northern Heritage” program.

Commercial units stand on towers at least 50 meters in height. A typical unit can be seen near the waterfront in Toronto. They require a minimum wind velocity of 6 meters per second to operate.

Similar to farm yard scale units, Hydro must allow for your connection onto the Provincial grid. You pay for the installation and all associated costs, as well as for an environmental study. Note that connecting lines to the main line are currently about $100,000 per km. Also, access must be good as huge cranes are required for the installation of the windmill.

To participate in “commercial” wind generation, a farmer could lease his land to a developer for 2 or 3 percent of the revenue generated. Recognize that some investors will only want to control the land base and may not plan to install a generator, a process that will likely take 2 or 3 years. Be sure to have legal assistance before you sign any contracts!

Another opportunity is for a group of farmers to form a “Wind Co-Op”. As a group, borrow the money yourself and install your own generator on a member’s farm. Only the best sites should be used and not every farmer will have a generator on his land, but every member will get a portion of the profits. This has been successful in Europe. Best potential sites in the North-East appear to be St. Joseph & Manitoulin Islands, and south of Lake Nipissing. Refer to the “Wind Resource Atlas” on the Ontario M.N.R. website.

Remember, you must obtain approval from the municipality, the electrical safety authority, NAV Canada, as well as both the Federal and Provincial environmental agencies. Also recognize that these units should not be installed near bird sanctuaries or known migratory bird flyways, and definitely not near cottages. Keep at least 500 meters away from houses, and consult with all neighbours.


Farm Windmills: From a Workshop by Glen Estill

(Sky Generation) at Farm Smart (Part 1)

Graham Gambles– Regional Communications Coordinator

There are two opportunities for on-farm electrical generation by windmills. These are the “Net Metering” and “Commercial” options. The economics of both are limited in Ontario by the current government policy of providing low cost electricity to the public at 8 to 10 cents per Kwh. This compares to European price levels in the 30 cent per Kwh range.

In Ontario, farmyard scale systems operate under the “Net Metering” rule, which simply means that you can create a portion of your electrical needs and even provide electrical input into the Provincial grid, but you CANNOT BE PAID for your input. At best, you can only break even on your annual electrical bill. Under new policy, Ontario Hydro must allow you to connect to the Provincial grid, provided that you meet all safety concerns. You do have to pay for the total cost of the connection.

This type of system can be positive if you have a high electricity draw, but should only be considered to be a hobby for the average farmer. Due to the high installation costs and the low value of the electrical product, the operation will have very limited returns, but will be very educational!

However, on the positive side, the generators can be installed and maintained by most farmers with average technical skills. Also, some second hand farm yard scale units in reasonable condition are now available in California and Europe, as owners switch to larger units. All of these units will have lower towers and are therefore limited by the wind available at a certain site.

Always remember that if you do not have adequate wind, the economic value of your generator is reduced even further. To help you select a site, the MNR has “wind maps” for the entire Province. For these low level installations, it is also good practice to add a battery bank to preserve power for the short term and thereby reduce the need to fall back on the Provincial electrical grid. In Part II, COMMERCIAL SCALE units will be reviewed.


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