Man. backs farmed biomass for heating systems

Manitoba will offer grants of up to $50,000 for users and processors of "high-quality, renewable biomass" to develop products for use in combustion heating systems.

The province on Tuesday said it has budgeted up to $400,000 for its new biomass energy support program (MBESP).

Of more interest to farmers is the program’s capital component, which will fund the infrastructure upgrades "required to effectively manufacture or consume biomass fuel including expansion of existing or development of new capacity."

For this program, eligible biomass includes: 

  • agricultural residue, such as wheat straw, corn stover or flax straw;
  • processing byproducts such as flax shives, sunflower hulls or oat hulls;
  • compacted biomass, such as wheat chaff pellets and oat-hull pellets; 
  • forestry residues such as hog fuel, forestry operations residues or salvaged timber; and
  • "purpose-grown" crops such as switchgrass, willow crops and poplar crops.

Applicants can include "farms, communities, rural business and industrial users," the province said. Applications will be accepted until March 9.

The province has estimated it has three to five million tonnes of biomass available each year, over and above what’s needed for livestock producers’ use or for soil management.

"With the assistance of programs like this, Manitoba farms will reduce their carbon footprint and continue to be part of the solution to environmental challenges," Agriculture Minister Ron Kostyshyn said, announcing the program Tuesday at Ag Days in Brandon.

The program’s "consumer support" component, meanwhile, will offer grants of up to $12,000 to Manitoba’s coal users, to help offset the price differential between coal and biomass products during the period from Jan. 1 to March 31 this year.

The province announced in 2011 it will prohibit coal use for space and water heating starting in 2014, and encourage use of renewable biomass for those applications.

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