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UBC biomass plant to provide 6 per cent of campus power

A new biomass-burning plant at the University of British Columbia will convert tree trimmings, wood chips and other wood waste into steam and electricity. The two-megawatt facility is expected provide up to six per cent of campus electrical demand, and 25 per cent of it steam.

The $27-million UBC Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Project (BRDP) is a partnership with Vancouver-based Nexterra Systems Corp. and General Electric Co. When it opens in 2012, it is projected to be the first biomass-fueled, heat-and-power generation system of its kind in the world.

In addition, the four-storey, 1,886-square-metre facility will be the first North American commercial application of cross-laminated-timber (CLT), a European building system adapted for BC lumber and manufacturing facilities. CLT is a renewable, low-carbon replacement for steel or concrete in multi-storey buildings up to 10 stories.

"This is an incredible example of partnership that helps establish British Columbia as a leader in the development of creative energy solutions," said the Honourable John Yap, B.C. Minister of State for Climate Action, in a prepared statement.

The project is expected to eliminate up to 4,500 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year from UBC's Vancouver campus.

UBC has signed a memorandum of understanding with the City of Vancouver, which will provide approximately 5,000 tonnes per year of tree chips from its municipal operations, according to a release. Other potential fuel sources include fibre from beetle-killed pine and clean wood waste from B.C. sawmills.

And in addition to supplying energy for the campus, the facility is expected to advance clean energy research and development. Researchers will conduct applied research on bioenergy systems, other green technologies and best practices and policies.

The bioenergy plant is one of several innovative green building projects underway at UBC. The university touts itself as among the greenest in the world, though critics note that much of the Vancouver campus has been converted into a suburban housing development. The university does not include emissions associated with its auto-oriented development scheme as part of its promise to eliminate "institutional GHG emissions" by 2050.

Monte Paulsen researches sustainability for the nonprofit Tyee Solutions Society.

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