Restoration Economy Irony: A partnership in Alberta, Canada will grow biomass for renewable energy on old coal mines

In the Canadian province of Alberta, Alberta Innovates invests in discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship to drive provincial economic growth and economic diversity via a lower-carbon future. They also enhance the responsible use of land and water to improve health and well-being in Alberta.

On September 3, 2019, Alberta Innovates announced that they were joining federal, provincial, municipal and industry partners to advance a unique clean technology demonstration project to reclaim land at an coal mine.

Municipal organic waste from the city of Edmonton will be used to replenish soil at the mine site to grow a willow crop that may be used as a biomass feedstock for renewable energy.

The environmental consulting firm SYLVIS is leading the BIOSALIX project. Salix (pronounced say’-lix) is the botanical name for willow. Westmoreland Mining is providing the demo project site at its Paintearth Mine near Forestburg, Alberta. EPCOR Water Services will process and transport municipal bio solids to the reclamation site.

Alberta Innovates is contributing $1.5 million to BIOSALIX. This investment is being leveraged with funding from the Natural Resources Canada Clean Growth Program and Emissions Reduction Alberta, who are providing $3.8 million and $2.1 million respectively. SYLVIS, EPCOR and industry partners Westmoreland Mining and Bionera Resources, are providing additional cash and in-kind services for a total project value of about $10.5 million.

The science, know-how and provincial support that Alberta Innovates brings to the BIOSALIX project are critical to its success and its delivery. With this support, SYLVIS and its partners are able to redefine mine reclamation, advance renewable energy development and help climate change mitigation through BIOSALIX in a way that can benefit Albertans and Canada as a whole,” said John Lavery, Principal Scientist at Sylvis Environmental Services.

Alberta Innovates is investing in this project through its Alberta Bio Future (ABF) program. The program is aimed at expanding a competitive bioindustrial sector in Alberta and adding value to the province’s abundant, renewable biomass resources. Agriculture and forestry wastes and byproducts are being transformed into advanced biomaterials, biochemicals, bioenergy and biocomposites. They provide technical expertise, entrepreneurial advice and support, opportunities for partnerships, and funding. They support a broad range of innovation activity, from discovery to use.

This project is a fine example of how the circular economy works. We can help municipalities manage their organic waste, grow a renewable feedstock for the production of bioenergy and reclaim expired mine sites – all at the same time. Alberta Innovates made an early commitment to this collaboration to demonstrate it is possible to use fast-growing willow as a sustainable biomass feedstock for renewable, clean energy,” said Steve Price, Executive Director of Bioindustrial Innovation at Alberta Innovates, referring to the regeneration-based global circular economy movement.

Featured photo of willow flowers courtesy of the Coal Association of Canada. All other photos are courtesy of Alberta Innovates.

See Alberta Innovates website.

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