OTTAWA, Ontario – A senior fire ecologist says new federal government funding to generate energy from the thousands of forest fires that rage across western Canada is a welcome step toward benefiting from forest fires, while others in the field say the funds could be better spent elsewhere.
Stacey Rect, P.Fire., said that the government’s idea to generate electricity from fires is great.
“The basic concept is to build portable, wood-fired generators that will be dropped into forest fire zones where they will heat up, boil the water within them into steam. The steam will then turn a small turbine that generates electricity that is sent via WIFI, or maybe BlueTooth, to battery banks being carried by overhead helicopters that dropped the Fire Gen units,” he said in an interview from Vernon, B.C.
Funding announced last Friday in the federal budget includes $1.7 billion over 3 years to be used to develop, test, deploy, and monitor the technology that the government calls Gen Fire Yield technology, or GFY for short.
So far there are 3 companies who have tendered a bid for the work, including Calgary-based E Double Engineering Services. 2P News’ field correspondent Rodecker Smith spoke to the company’s CEO this morning. “So this GFY technology the Libs are proposing is interesting. Part of the specifications is that they want to make these units reusable, which could be difficult considering how hot things get in those forest fires. As for transmitting electrical energy via WIFI or bluetooth, it hasn’t been done before, but we should be able to get it going – as always, the devil is in the details,” said Haywood Jablowme, P.Eng. He continued, “The nice thing about being awarded contracts by the federal liberal government is that we’d get paid in full even if we had exactly zero to show for the work, that’s just the way it goes.”
According to the federal minister of Forests, Wildlife, and Parks, Miss May I. Tuchem, just over 4,400 fires were recorded in B.C. and Alberta in the 2022 fire season. With this technology, she believes that her, “models show that we should be able to generate at least 500 megawatts of electricity and possibly up to 2 gigawatts if those fires really get going, and that’s per week! So I’d hate to say that my group wants more and bigger forest fires, but hey… if we get them, at least we can make something of them,” Miss Tuchem told 2P News. “It’s a concept that looks great on paper, but we need to make it look great in real life as well.”
Seymore Bush, the MLA for Kamloops-North Thompson and finance critic for the B.C. official opposition, believes the funding could be put to better use on frontline fire prevention and mitigation. “Hey listen, most of the forest fires are started by lightning, so maybe the solution is figuring out how to reduce that stuff. And what about the fuel for the fires, I’m talking about the trees and whatnot… the stuff that actually burns. What if we spray paint them with fire retardant paint? You pickin’ up what I’m droppin’ over here?”