President, Gúnta Business Consulting
Teslin Biomass Project
Teslin Tlingit First Nation, Yukon
Blair’s home community of Teslin Tlingit First Nation sits in the vast boreal forest, on the southern edge of Yukon Territory. Surrounded by so many trees, the community is keen to tap into this rich resource, which is ripe for sustainable development. Unfortunately, the tapered shape of the trees means that a timber mill would waste 60% of the wood biomass they harvest, losing them money faster than they could make it. However, thanks to a trip to Finland, Blair and his Gúnta colleagues learned how the by-products from a saw mill there actually bring in most of its revenue.
At the same time, the community was making plans for their energy future, looking for ways to cut back on how much diesel they use to power and heat their homes. Diesel pollutes the air and is expensive to bring in to remote communities like Teslin. They decided to venture into the world of renewable energy, with wood biomass at the heart of their strategy.
The first step in this plan was a district heating project, which turns wood chips into heat for buildings in the community. Local workers chip wood left over from construction, collected from the forest to prevent wildfires, and cut with permission by private citizens. These wood chips are burned in a boiler, heating up water, which is then piped to ten Teslin Tlingit Council buildings to keep them warm throughout the year. This enterprise saves the community 110 000 L of diesel every year, about $85 000 worth, and keeps 160 tonnes of greenhouse gases out of the air. These benefits will blossom even more once the timber mill is built, giving them enough waste wood to heat Yukon government buildings and the municipality for many years to come.