Vidir is leading way
in eco-friendly power generation
By Matt Wright
Friday August 25, 2006
Dueck with original gas displacement system at Vidir’’s Arborg plant.
Interlake Spectator — A
local and greener approach to home and business heating is in its
finishing stages just north of Arborg.
Vidir Machine Inc. has recently acquired a $189,000 grant from the
Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council Inc. The grant will enable it to
complete and put the finishing touches on a heating system that runs
solely on biomass. The $600,000 project is called the Greenhouse Gas
Displacement System (GDS) and currently it heats 50,000 sq. ft. of the
company’s Arborg plant -- saving the firm $50,000 a year in heating
The company also has in development a combined heat and power system
(CHP) at its Morris plant, a system that will be tested to heat and
power that community. A grant from the Green Municipal Enabling Fund
given to municipalities to stimulate investment in innovative
environmental infrastructure projects will hopefully enable the project
to come to fruition.
Biomass refers to energy resources derived from organic matter,
including wood, wood waste, agricultural waste and other living-cell
material that can be burned to produce heat
The GDS system is an updraft, atmospheric heating system that features
high efficiency, low emissions and low maintenance requirements.
The biomass used in the system is post-harvested baled wheat straw, a
renewable, cheap and accessible resource that is converted into hot
water or air.
The energy derived from the process is what Raymond Dueck, co-president
of the company and project manager of the GDS system, likes to call
“sequestered solar energy” as the energy obtained by the plant from the
sun when it’s alive is stored in it and released when it’s burnt in the
Vidir is currently experimenting with other biomass sources such as
cattails, switchgrass, woodchips and rice hulls to see how efficient
and useful they are to burn.
The company started tinkering with the idea of biomass heating in the
1980s. In 1999, it began operating a fully functional system in the
plant, one still in use today. In those early days, Vidir burned
sunflower pellets for energy. The price of the pellets subsequently
went up and became cost inefficient. The firm then switched to a
coal-burning furnace, but discovered that maintenance costs were too
high. It was then Vidir Machine bought a straw-burning furnace and
began experimenting with other types of biomass to produce heat.
At first Dueck and his firm were told that they couldn’t burn straw
efficiently as it produces silica as a by-product when burned -- and
that would clog the pipes in the system. They set to work and figured
out a way to deal with the silica problem, a method for which they are
now seeking a patent.
The practice of burning straw for fuel has benefits for all involved.
For the farmer, it provides and economic and practical way of getting
rid of it rather than burning it out of a field. For the environment,
the straw burns cleanly, as biomass combustion is considered being CO2
neutral. Commercialized, it means cheaper heating for residents.
Consider that, according to the company, biomass heating from straw
costs about 10 per cent of the price of natural gas to use. And it’s a
constantly renewable resource.
Two years ago, Dueck brought in Dr. Eric Bibeau, an expert in
Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering from the University of
Manitoba. He has been working with biomass applications since 2001.
Apart from the wealth of knowledge he’s brought to the program, Bibeau
has also been chief architect of a turbion power system, a biomass
power combustion system that turns biomass waste into heat and
electricity. The company’s Morris plant will shortly be integrated with
such a system and the benefits could be enormous.
“It will be the first CHP (combined heat and power) biomass plant in
the community and be able to electrify the entire town centre,” Dr.
“We can generate power, but far more important, there is an automatic
switching system that guarantees a power supply to hospitals, seniors
homes and wherever it’s most needed in times of traditional electrical
failures,” Dueck said.
A large portion of the funding for the Vidir Machine project comes from
the Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council Inc., a non-profit group that
funds innovative agricultural projects. Other donors include the
province and Vidir itself. To see how industry and the environment can
safely and economically co-exist visit www.vidirbiomass.com