The County of Newell is one of three municipalities to advance to the shortlist of preferred sites for an energy-from-waste facility being proposed by the Southern Alberta Energy from Waste Association (SAEWA).
The project, which has been years in the planning stages, would involve building a facility that would take material out of landfills in southern Alberta and burn it using an electrical generator to produce clean energy.
“This was an opportunity we could not pass up,” said County of Newell reeve, Molly Douglass. “Our location is central for getting enough feed for the burning and I think, the location is very strategic. We have Highways 1 and 36 and the railroad gives us access to a lot of places.”
The three municipalities that have advanced to the shortlist of preferred sites: County of Newell, Vulcan County, and Wheatland County.They will have to wait a few more weeks to find out which one of them will be the selected, according to Paul Ryan, vice-chair for SAEWA.
Initially, six southern Alberta municipalities submitted 11 potential sites for consideration.
SAEWA received a $400,000 grant from the Alberta Community Partnership Funding program which has allowed them to move forward and in February, SAEWA announced it would be starting the formal siting process.
They then completed a Request for Expressions of Interest (REOI) targeting potential host communities for an EFW facility, potential EFW project developers/technology vendors, and potential energy hosts/customers.
In narrowing down the contenders to the short list, the siting process plan has involved preliminary talks with provincial regulators and completing the required environmental impact assessment.
SAEWA then screened, identified, and evaluated potential sites using the following criteria:
-site footprint area
-requirements for availability of adequate water supply
-proximity to necessary transportation routes
-capacity to establish adequate electrical connection
-separation distance from incompatible land uses
As well, short list considerations included economic, legal, public health and safety, environment, social, cultural, and community, and technical concerns.
The engineering work is being completed by HDR Inc.
“The engineers looked at the sites with the least amount of impact and the geo-technical work,” said Ryan. “All the sites had crops in the field, so we had to wait. We will hopefully have the preferred site before end of year and right now, it is still very much an engineering-based exercise.”
SAEWA was developed in 2009 and the association incorporated in 2012.
“Now, we have close to 80 participants; waste commissions, waste authorities, and municipalities,” he said.
The group is focused on identifying sustainable solutions that will provide viable alternatives to landfill of waste and environmental impact and their mission is to develop an energy-from-waste facility for the treatment of solid waste with the all added benefits from development of energy-from-waste.
“It's all about greenhouse gas reduction. We have been fighting the government over carbon tax and with this, we can reduce environmental impact through offset of GHG credits. It will steward significant positive economic gains,” said Ryan. “An electrical generator uses garbage to make steam, basically is how it would work. There are a couple of different technologies, but we haven’t formally selected one yet. The ash left over gets used for cement.”
Ryan has spent recent weeks meeting with MLAs from throughout the region and said SAEWA has been receiving support from government.
It is estimated over 500 contractors would be needed for construction and procurement and 50 full-time positions for operations.
Unrelated to the SAEWA proposal, the County of Newell had already been working on a separate study for an energy-from-waste facility. Last year, the Newell Region Economic Development Initiative and Palliser Economic Partnership retained Tetra Tech Canada to conduct a feasibility study on the potential of an energy from waste processing facility in the county. The study, “Newell Energy from Waste Feasibility Study Technology Review”, which addressed suitable technologies, waste streams and quantities in Phase 1 of the project, and identify the suitability of technology to needs in the region.
“When I came on council 15 years ago, there were a lot of studies about this happening then and a lot of meetings going on. This PEP study was very specific for our area,” said Douglass.