Canada is a winter nation resulting in Canadians spending millions of dollars each year to pay for necessary heat. With increasing heating costs and climate change becoming top of mind, communities are taking a more serious look at energy alternatives. One of the top choices for energy alternatives is bioheat. To support a movement towards using bioheat, A Solid Wood Bioheat Guide for Rural and Remote Communities in Ontario, has been created to provide key information for using bioheat sourced from wood.

What are bioheat systems?

Modern bioheat systems are well-developed and highly engineered mechanical systems with sophisticated controls. These state-of-the-art systems produce heat by combusting (burning) sustainably-sourced solid woody biomass (i.e. wood pellets, wood chips, wood briquettes, and conventional firewood). They are ideal for providing space heat and domestic hot water for community buildings and businesses, as well as for private homes. The technology is widely used in Europe, Alaska, and the northeastern United States, and can be found across Canada.
Why heat with woody biomass?

There are many advantages to heating with woody biomass including environmental to socio-economic benefits. The reliability, efficiency and versatility of modern bioheat systems allows for supplementation or even replacement of current fossil fuel or electric heating systems. These systems can use local, sustainably sourced, economical, and renewable solid woody biofuels. Provincial laws require that Crown forests be sustainably managed following approved forest management plans that require harvested areas to be regenerated. This means that carbon emitted to create bioheat generated from solid woody biofuels is recaptured by the growing forest making bioheat a low-carbon heating system. Emissions from particles and volatile compounds are also low and on par with fossil fuel heating systems.
From an economic perspective, bioheat is easily justified. These systems offer a more affordable and stable price option when compared to electricity and fossil fuel systems. Since woody biofuel can be produced locally, bioheat is affordable and accessible. Using local biofuels allows for money to stay in the local economy opposed to importing fossil fuels from outside Ontario. And, because bioheat fuel originates from forest operations and residuals, it assists in diversifying the forest industry’s product mix and the economic sustainability of the forestry sector in general.

A much-needed guide to capitalize on bioheat’s potential

The social, environmental and economic benefits of bioheat are obvious. Bioheat could bring many advantages to rural and remote communities where energy options are often limited or expensive. Consequently, a comprehensive bioheat guide promoting bioheat was authored by Glen Prevost, Forest Bioeconomy and Wood Manufacturing Industry Advisor at FPInnovations, with direction and guidance from a steering committee composed of Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, CanmetENERGY, Natural Resources Canada, and FPInnovations.
The guide details the different types of solid woody fuel, combustion systems, and costs. The guide arms its readers with the information needed to start bioheat projects in residential, commercial and institutional buildings. Although specific to Ontario’s regulations and resources, much of the content applies to any jurisdiction.

Interested in initiating a bioheat project?

The first step is to become familiar with bioheat by reading A Solid Wood Bioheat Guide for Rural and Remote Communities in Ontario. For larger projects, the next step will be to engage your community. The bioheat community in Ontario is knowledgeable and passionate; those who want to join will be welcomed and well supported. For public projects, the best place to begin is through discussions with bioheat professionals and community stakeholders. As for large private projects, appoint an engineering firm to manage the design and installation of the project. Qualified mechanical contractors and vendors can handle smaller projects.

For more information, contact Glen Prevost at