Renewing Renewable Investment

The Whitecourt Power biomass facililty has been turning wood waste into electricity for more than 20 years and a recent investment from Capstone Infrastructure will ensure the plant continues providing renewable energy for decades to come.

PROJECT: Capstone Infrastructure’s Whitecourt Power Facility
VALUE ADD: Biomass

Capstone Infrastructure develops, owns and operates thermal and renewable power generation facilities across Canada. The company got a boost in funding from the Government of Alberta’s Bioenergy Producer Program for its $14.3-million refurbishment of Whitecourt Power. The upgrade was completed towards the end of 2016, and included repairs to the facility’s boiler and an overhaul of its steam turbine/ generator.

“Whitecourt represents a great move forward in minimizing environmental footprints by using waste products to create energy,” says Troy Grainger, executive director of the Grizzly Regional Economic Alliance (GROWTH Alberta), an alliance of nine communities and four supporting agencies in north central Alberta.
Whitecourt Power is located in Woodlands County close to Whitecourt, a town with a population of a little more than 10,000 people that sits on Highway 43 about 180 kilometres northwest of Edmonton. The plant was the first power generating facility in Canada to be certified under the federal government’s EcoLogo program, which recognizes products and services that adhere to stringent environmental standards and practices.

The plant generates power from wood waste supplied from nearby saw and pulp mills. The waste is transformed via fluidized bubbling bed boiler combustion. The combustion generates hot gases, which produce the steam that creates electricity in the turbine/generator. The electricity is sold under a long-term power purchase agreement and delivered to Alberta’s power grid.

Grainger says Whitecourt Power’s 25-year track record of providing green energy, “supports the viability of our biomass industry overall. For forestry communities like Whitecourt, it keeps people employed, reduces industry footprint, and is less of a burden on landfills.”
Capstone Infrastructure chief executive officer Dave Eva is confident the forestry sector around Whitecourt will be able to supply waste wood in the volumes required for the overhauled facility, securing most of its supply from the nearby Millar Western pulp and lumber mills.

With seven mills less than 100 kilometres away from Whitecourt, the area could become a hotbed of biomass activity.

“Even though the biomass industry in Alberta is still up and coming, it is steadily evolving, as are technological advances,” says Grainger. “There are plenty of opportunities for growth given the amount of product available in the region.”