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How a small North Okanagan community saves money and lowers its carbon footprint

Grahame Go in front of the pipes that each carry hot water to a different business.
December 13, 2017 - 6:30 PM

ENDERBY - You might know Enderby for its proximity to the scenic Shuswap River or popular Mabel Lake, but the small North Okanagan community is also home to a state of the art clean energy heating system.

It’s called a biomass boiler and it uses scrap wood chips to heat water, which is then circulated through underground pipes to 12 businesses in the city’s downtown. The fossil fuel alternative is commonly found in Europe but is fairly unique in this part of the world.

“Places like Germany, Austria, and Switzerland have not just hundreds, but thousands of them,” Burkhard Fink says.

He owns and operates Fink Machine in Enderby, which makes boiler systems for schools, hospitals, airports and other buildings across the country. It also showcases what’s known as a district heating system right here in Enderby.

"The town of Enderby has really grasped the concept,” sales manager Grahame Go says. 

The system was installed about five years ago and initially serviced four nearby businesses. Since then, eight more businesses and public facilities  — including the community pool — have been hooked up to the system, which is cheaper in the long run and carbon neutral.

“The wood we are burning is equivalent to the wood rotting naturally in the bush,” Go says.

Enderby mayor Greg McCune says he’s proud the city is leading the way and setting an example for how communities can use alternative energies.

“For us to be involved as a testing ground where people can come and see a working model, I think it’s great for this local person and great for the city. We are saving money,” McCune says.

The city even has its own biomass boiler installed at the public works yard, McCune says, adding he’d like to see the technology expand in Enderby.

Fink Machine produces enough heat from the boiler in its demonstration area to heat more than just the 12 businesses already tied in. They have plans to bring another business online soon and say they’re exploring the possibility of hooking up a care home and health services centre as well. Connecting to the system is as easy as burying a pipe between the main boiler and the building. Currently, the system uses about 1.6 km of underground pipe for the 12 businesses, which includes the new Esso gas station on Highway 97A.

The company has installed standalone systems in nearby communities such as Vernon and Westbank, but the breadth of the district heating system in Enderby is quite unique in the Okanagan, Go says.

The renewable energy is especially popular in rural communities that don’t have natural gas, Go says.

“Lots of rural northern First Nations are using it,” Go says. “Many have solar panels but that’s only good in the summer. In the winter they still need heat and this is a really good alternative.”

He says the boilers are a good option for communities that want to reduce their carbon footprint, and adds that wood pallets and other items that would otherwise rot in landfills could instead be chipped and used to heat municipal buildings.

Right now, most customers are either businesses or institutional projects like schools or hospitals, but the technology has the potential to provide residential heating as well.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2017

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