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Councillors off to Europe

Regional staff, politicians heading to Spain, France to investigate new energy source


In 2007, 16 regional councillors and staff spent approximately $192,000 on a trip to Europe to see various energy-from-waste facilities before moving ahead with the now complete Durham York Energy Centre project. Now, another European trip is being planning, this time to study anaerobic digesters, which use compost to create biogas.

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

The region will be sending several councillors and staff on an European excursion to learn about a new form of generating power, The Oshawa Express has learned.

The trip, scheduled for this summer, will see participants see anaerobic digesters – facilities that use compost to generate biogas which, in turn, can be used to generate electricity – in France and Spain.

Joanne Paquette, a spokesperson for the regional works department, says the itinerary is still being finalized, but that five stops have thus far been confirmed. The cost of the trip is still not known, she adds, as accommodation and transportation have not yet been booked.

Paquette says the trip will be paid for through the region’s solid waste management budget.

A source tells The Oshawa Express that councillors wanting to take part in the trip were asked to bring in their passports last week.

The notion of bringing anaerobic digesters to Durham Region is not a new one, with Cliff Curtis, the region’s works commissioner, telling The Oshawa Express for a story on the upcoming cap and trade regulations that the region saw this as a potential option.

Ontario is no stranger to anaerobic digesters, with numerous farms throughout the province using them as a means to create power using the plentiful animal manure available on site. The largest anaerobic digester in Canada is in Lethbridge, Alberta, and runs on manure and commercial organic waste from across southern Alberta, producing 2.8 megawatts of power, with plans to bring it up to 4.2 megawatts later this year. By contrast, the Durham York Energy Centre produces 14 megawatts of power.

Outside of Canada, however, anaerobic digesters have been built on a much larger scale. South of the border, America’s largest digester opened recently in Colorado. The Heartland Biogas Facility in Weld County is the largest on the continent, with the site’s operator, EDF Renewable Energy, saying the digester produces 50 megawatts of power.

Europe sees a large number of large-scale digesters, with Germany being home to more than 6,000 of them, according to a 2010 report from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

Heading back across the pond

This isn’t the first time the region has made its way overseas to learn about a new form of energy generation.

In 2007, 16 regional councillors and staff – including Region Chair Roger Anderson, works commissioner Cliff Curtis, region chief administrative officer Garry Cubitt and Oshawa councillor Nester Pidwerbecki – went over to Europe to check out energy from waste facilities ahead of the announcement of the recently completed Durham York Energy Centre in Clarington. The eight-day trip saw stops in seven different cities, including Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm. That trip also came with a price tag of $192,000, or about $16,000 per person.

“We’re going to be spending a lot of money on this (proposed energy from waste facility in Durham Region), so we are prepared to spend a lot of money to see how it works,” Curtis said at the time.

“And we were all very impressed.”

“I think that taxpayers shouldn’t be upset,” Anderson said in 2007.

“I think (taxpayers) would like to know ($250 million) is being spent wisely. The public wouldn’t want us to make a decision on something we didn’t see operating.”