BOW VALLEY – An energy from waste facility in southern Alberta took another step forward.
The Southern Alberta Energy from Waste Association (SAEWA) announced the receipt of three expressions of interest for the eventual creation of a facility in the County of Newell.
Covanta Energy, SUEZ Canada Waste Services Inc. and a joint submission from Hitachi Zosen INOVA and ACCIONA – three of the international leaders in the energy from waste field – were the selected businesses.
The expressions of interest were selected earlier in October, prior to the municipal election, which will see new appointees be made to the SAEWA board.
Paul Ryan, the project lead and vice chair of SAEWA, said it was important to get the project to this stage since the municipal election would have all but temporarily halted the path forward for the energy from waste facility.
“We wanted to set it up as best we could for the incoming councils to understand where we are and what we’re doing. Are you on the 50-yard line or the five-yard line? We’re on the five-yard line, so we did get to where we wanted to go. It took a lot of work.
“It’s tough and a long road to haul,” he said. “We’re very fortunate the Bow Valley Waste Management Commission is very supportive, but so are the towns of Banff and Canmore since we have a common goal of not burying waste in the ground. We’ve got it pretty damn close.”
Ryan said SAEWA’s engineers – HDR Engineering, who were part of the Durham York Energy Centre’s creation in Ontario – will go through the proposals. After vetting the three bids to see what can and cannot be done, one will be recommended to the SAEWA board.
“It’s trust and verify,” Ryan said. “It’s not a short or a cheap process.”
He estimated the process will cost about $400,000, but SAEWA has received grant funding from the federal government’s Green Municipal Fund and will have a proposal going to the provincial government’s Alberta Community Partnership fund.
Ryan said in the coming months he’ll visit the respective councils to brief new councillors on the SAEWA project and answer questions.
Once complete, the project would help increase the lifespan of the Francis Cooke landfill from its existing 40 years remaining in addition to not relying on burying waste in the ground. The project would also reduce the carbon footprint that is part of trucking garbage significant distances
The County of Newell was selected after 11 sites were marked as possibilities in a 2020 report to the SAEWA board. Vulcan County was also recommended, but the 15-hectare site at the County of Newell was already zoned for waste management, meaning the transition to building the facility could be done more quickly.
The County of Newell site is also on the Trans-Canada Highway and near major utilities that would be able to be tied into the grid to create energy.
The energy from waste facility would allow the selected private company to have a steady supply of waste to create energy.
The partnering municipalities would reduce the greenhouse gases that come with waste transportation, create long-term certainty for shipping costs and have it at a centralized location.
Much of the waste from the Bow Valley is trucked to the West Dried Meat Lake Regional Landfill in Camrose County, often taking about an eight-hour round trip that ultimately sees the waste buried.
A report from the Pembina Institute to SAEWA found greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by about 230,000 tonnes a year or seven million tonnes throughout the life of the project.
SAEWA was first established in 2009 with the aim of creating sustainable waste management practices to help become more efficient with resources and be environmentally impactful for the region. The non-profit group is comprised of more than 60 municipalities in largely rural areas of southern Alberta.
The idea of waste from energy is not new, but has been gaining traction across the globe as environmental concerns are pushed to the forefront.
The Durham York Energy Centre was the last such facility built in Canada in 2016. It converts roughly 150,000 tonnes of garbage into electricity, with roughly a tonne of garbage supplying enough electricity to a home for about a month.
The facility was created as the region shipped most of its waste to Michigan – a common practice in Ontario – but when the state threatened to close its borders to garbage, it forced regions to think differently.
“Unless it’s piling up on the street, no one really cares about garbage,” Ryan said. “Many people think it goes in the bin, out to the curb and someone picks it up. That person doesn’t just take it home. It’s important to understand where your garbage and recycling go. When they understand what goes into waste management and they look at the SAEWA project and wonder why we’re not already doing it.”
Ryan said the three expressions of interest are likely to be evaluated starting in January and aim to be concluded before the spring, when the board can select one of the three.
“The most important thing is to do the job right, not to do it quickly,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate to be the project lead and I’ve been fortunate we’ve been able to get here without any derailments. We’ve been very fortunate to have a great group of municipalities who support it.”
CORRECTION: The article previously stated roughly a tonne of garbage can supply enough electricity to a home for a year. It should have stated a month. The Outlook apologizes for the error.