Agricultural Campus Biomass Thermal Plant Upgrade


The biomass thermal plant at Dalhousie’s Agricultural Campus has been in use for over 30 years and is near the end of its useful life. This $26.5 million project will replace the aging steam lines with hot water lines, replace the wood boiler, add appropriate and required air quality controls, and add a turbine to create electricity. Also called the Biomass Co-Gen Project, this will support the community and university’s sustainability goals as well as address facilities renewal costs of an existing end-of-life system. It will create opportunity to connect research, teaching and operations.



This project will create electricity (up to 1 MW), use waste heat from electricity production to heat the campus and will produce 30% less thermal energy by converting the distribution system to hot water.  

The biomass supply procurement, use, and restoration follows bioenergy guidelines identified by Dalhousie and the Government of Nova Scotia. These principles, as outlined below, incorporate the Nova Scotia Community Feed-in Tariff (COMFIT) requirements and university sustainability values. 

  • Maximize available waste biomass sources for use. Potential supplies include yard and tree trimming material, sawmill and wood processing residues, farm-based waste, and clean construction and demolition and fiber waste.
  • Support the integration of agricultural energy crops (such as willow) into biomass feed stocks.
  • Recognize arable land used for food production should not be targeted for bioenergy production.
  • Utilize low-value forest biomass stem wood from environmentally managed lands such as those who receive sustainable forest certification.
  • Utilize low-value wood from already existing and approved road-side clearing, thinning, and development projects.
  • Support silviculture initiatives that enhance healthy forest ecosystems.
  • Support local economic development.
  • Meet and/or beat provincial air quality regulations. 
  • No biomass fuel shall come from old-growth forests and protected areas.
  • Biomass fuel shall be sources from a preferred radius of 175 km from the delivery location.

The biomass requirements for the plant is approximately 20,000 tonnes per year. Biomass is provided by local organizations. Biomass fuel contracts for 2017-2021 include waste residue from sawmill (bark and shavings) and yard waste as the primary fuel. A smaller volume of biomass will be coming from sources that have a sustainable, research and economic potential. These include willow (in later years) and selective harvesting from local forestry management co-ops. The university will be participating in silviculture programs and annual reporting.

Project Overview

  • Location: Agricultural Campus Heating Plant Building (Bible Hill)
  • Budget: $26.5 million
  • District Heating Piping System: Fall 2016-August 2017
  • Engineer: FVB Energy
  • Construction Firm: Dexter Construction
  • Building Energy Transfer Station and System Modifications: Spring 2017-October 2017
  • Engineer: FVB Energy
  • Construction Firm: Black and MacDonald
  • Central Energy Centre Retrofit and Expansion Spring 2017 - April 2018
  • Engineer: FVB Energy
  • Construction Firm: GJ Cahill Company (1979) Limited
  • Commissioning and Operation: May - October 2018

Community Information and Discussion Session

  • May 31, 2017 - Second public meeting about Site Works Construction starting at the AC
  • Fall 2015 & Winter 2016 - Public and Stakeholder Engagement about the project and biomass supply RFI processApril – November 2014 - Meetings with organizations about initial project and feasibility study information 
  • November 30, 2015 - Open public information and discussion session was held at the AC about proposed project details.
  • Fall 2014 – ongoing - Presentations, tours and website information for Dalhousie campus, community organizations, and professional conferences 


Mary Jane Webber, BA, BJ

Manager, Communications and Marketing 

Facilities Management Department