Updating our Biogas Work
In 2014 and 2015, Yukon Energy partnered with the Cold Climate Innovation Centre and the City of Whitehorse to carry out a research project that was the first of its kind in Yukon.
We wanted to learn if it is viable to turn food and yard waste at the Whitehorse landfill into renewable energy for electricity and heat, while maintaining good quality compost.
After two years of research, we have gained some valuable information. The good news is this data could be very useful to the City of Whitehorse as it works towards of goal of zero waste by 2040. There is potential for a small biogas project to speed up the compost process, freeing up space at the city’s composting facility which could be a cost savings down the road.
The not-so-good news is that using biogas to generate electricity is not economic for Yukon Energy without significant capital subsidy. Without subsidies, the electricity costs would be in the neighbourhood of 63 cents per kilowatt hour, compared with 14 cents for hydro, 28 cents for diesel, and 18 cents for natural gas.
Simply put, there just is not enough waste to get the economies of scale we need to make this affordable for our customers.
In addition to just looking at supplying electricity, we considered the possibility of heating buildings with biogas, including the option of heating a greenhouse that could be built near the landfill to supply Yukoners with locally grown food. Again, the economics simply are not there. The greenhouse would require most of its heat in the winter, which is when there would be the least amount of biogas-generated heat available. As well, in order for the greenhouse to pay for itself, we would need to supply the heat for free, which would make the biogas project uneconomic.
While this is not a viable option for Yukon Energy, we are happy to provide our research to other Yukoners who might be interested in pursuing this further. Here is the final report.