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By any metric, the renewable energy sector is a growth industry. By the end of 2014 there were 7.7 million jobs in the renewable energy industry world wide, up 18 per cent over the year before. This according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. And that doesn't include large hydro.
Wood is certainly not a new fuel. We've been using it since the invention of fire to keep warm, but can it be a big part of our electricity mix in our modern age? Biomass provides green baseload power -- an important consideration for grid operators who want to integrate more renewable energy by balancing the intermittent nature of solar and wind.
The great boreal forest straddles the country and provinces from Nova Scotia to British Columbia have ample forestry resources. In a place like Canada biomass to energy can make a lot of sense. So we headed to the largest, closest biomass operation we could find -- the Alberta Pacific Forest Industries (ALPAC) pulp mill.
District heating is a simple idea. Produce the heat in a large centralized plant and then pipe it to nearby customers, but it still hasn't cracked into the mainstream in Canada yet. The heating provided by the biomass project can cover half of the heating load on the coldest prairie winter day of the year and the vast majority of the heating loads the rest of the year.
The creaking, turn of the century steam pipes at the University of British Columbia are transforming into a modern, modular low-carbon Lego style hot water system. The new hot water style heating system at UBC can now integrate renewable energy systems like biomass, geoexchange, solar thermal and waste heat into this natural gas system all because the barrier for entry is lower.
Church Point, a little-known dot on the map in rural southern Nova Scotia, isn't exactly a tourist hotspot. But for sustainability nerds it's an unexpected haven. It's home to St. Anne University, or Université Sante Anne as it's called in French and it may be the greenest little university in Canada.