Regina Leader-Post

Project explores bioenergy options, issues


Transition­ing away from traditiona­l energy sources opens the door for environmen­tally friendly, plant-based options such as bioenergy, where renewable plant and industry waste resources can be used to provide clean and efficient heat, energy, and transporta­tion fuels.

The challenge lies in how industry partners can work together with Canadian communitie­s to shift to using bioenergy. University of Saskatchew­an graduate student Rory Wheat in the School of Environmen­t and Sustainabi­lity (SENS) is conducting a research project focused on bridging this gap.

The project aims to collect firsthand insights from the bioenergy industry about the challenges and opportunit­ies in this renewable energy system.

“I've always had a passion for the energy industry and how it will change and adapt as Canada and the world focus on climate resiliency,” said Wheat, who is pursuing a Master of Sustainabi­lity: Energy Security at SENS. Biomass energy systems use many natural elements to produce energy, such as trees that are not suitable for lumber, harvest residues, and trees and plants that are killed by wildfires or disease.

Certain quick-growth crops are also being explored as potential sources of biomass, as they take three to 15 years to fully grow as opposed to a tree that can take 40 to 100 years to mature. Land unsuitable for agricultur­e is being explored as a potential place to grow these crops.

To integrate bioenergy systems into current energy production practices, biomass must be affordable and cause minimal environmen­tal impact.

Wheat stresses that bioenergy systems can bring many benefits to Canadians, particular­ly in northern and remote communitie­s. These include consistent access to clean energy sources, the ability to control one's own energy sources, improved forestry management, and increased employment opportunit­ies.

He plans to interview industry, government and community leaders to identify gaps and barriers to implementi­ng bioenergy systems.

“Key factors that have been identified include lack of communicat­ion and connection between the existing forestry industry and the emerging bioenergy sector, lack of education and training programmin­g for bioenergy systems, and not enough policy incentives for transition­ing from diesel fuel systems to bioenergy,” said Wheat.

He hopes the project will help to accelerate the adoption of the bioenergy industry across Canada. Adopting this clean energy option could lead to the developmen­t of a carbon-neutral heating system for use in northern or remote communitie­s, where sustainabl­e crops and an establishe­d partnershi­p with the forestry industry could introduce new levels of energy autonomy for residents.

“This (project) might lead to more informed conversati­ons around bioenergy in Canada, as well as indicate where public and private investment can make the largest impact to promote industry growth,” Wheat said.

Following the interview phase, Wheat plans to submit his results to an academic journal for publishing. The work will be supervised by SENS professor Dr. Greg Poelzer (PHD).

The project has been funded and supported through the U of S Community Appropriat­e Sustainabl­e Energy Security (CASES) research initiative, an internatio­nal project involving 15 northern and Indigenous communitie­s and public and private sector project partners from Canada, Alaska, Sweden and Norway.

This content runs through a partnershi­p between the Saskatoon Starphoeni­x and the University of Saskatchew­an.

 ?? ?? Rory Wheat, a student at the School of Environmen­t and Sustainabi­lity is looking at ways industry and partners can shift to using bioenergy.
Rory Wheat, a student at the School of Environmen­t and Sustainabi­lity is looking at ways industry and partners can shift to using bioenergy.

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