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Indigenous biomass heat and power plant lands $35 million from Ottawa

Whitesand First Nation’s Bio-Economy Centre project will heat communities, provide power for local forestry operations
(Neegan Burnside photo)

Ottawa is investing $35 million for Whitesand First Nation to proceed with its proposed heat and power facility. 

The plant, to be run by the Sagatay Co-Generation Limited Partnership, will be fuelled by locally sourced wood for produce energy for three northwestern Ontario communities.

Once built, the 6.5-megawatt facility will reduce Whitesand’s dependence on diesel fuel for heat and electricity.

It will connect to a local micro-grid and provide power to the neighbouring communities of Whitesand, Armstrong and Collins. It will also provide power to a new wood pellet plant and a wood merchandising yard, according to a federal government news release.

The micro-grid currently consumes an annual diesel volume equivalent to over 1.3 million litres.

Whitesand is located 250 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay on Highway 527 and is less than a kilometre from Armstrong.

In a statement, federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson called the biomass plant an “important local energy solution” that cut emissions from diesel fuel while creating good jobs.

Whitesand Chief Allan Gustafson thanked Ottawa for its support of their Bio-Economy Centre project. 

“Whitesand's vision of energy independence and economic growth began in 1992 when we proposed a biomass cogeneration facility. Although that proposal was not accepted, and despite the many barriers we have faced through the years, we did not give up and today our vision of a sustainable future through the use of our local forest is at hand."

David Mackett of Sagatay thanked the minister for “supporting a transformative green energy project.”

“The Bio-Economy Centre is confirmation of how Canada's low-carbon programs and support can lead to substantial economic growth, employment, GHG reduction and forestry expansion. This project empowers an Indigenous community to enter Canada's and Ontario's economy while demonstrating how carbon reduction can lead to poverty reduction in similar communities across Canada."