Flax shives feed Vanderveen Greenhouses’ biomass burner
By Brandi Cowen
When natural gas prices spiked in 2006, many Canadian greenhouse operators looked for alternative heating sources. Kelvin Vanderveen found a local solution for his Carman, Man., greenhouses, using flax shives from Schweitzer-Maudit Canada Inc.’s flax processing operation as feedstock for a new biomass burner.
“I did a lot of homework on different biomass systems before choosing a local biomass stoker rather than a boiler. I made phone calls overseas and looked locally for two years to find the best fit since, to our knowledge, no one else in the world was burning flax shives.”
While currently on track for its five-year return on investment, Vanderveen’s did not meet its first-year targets.
“Many unforeseen challenges came up from transporting the raw materials to replacing gear boxes and the ash collection system.”
Vanderveen strategically chose to buy his equipment locally too.
“We used a local stoker manufacturer so that they could help us make changes and fix components of the system as we adjusted to burning flax shives.”
Vanderveen has signed a 10-year contract for feedstock and, despite the recent drop in natural gas prices in North America, sees value in building on his energy investment.
This article originally appeared in Farm Credit Canada’s Knowledge Insider: Energy (vol. 1, issue 2). It is published here with permission.