The idea of energy savings is music to Graham Hein’s ears.
The Trail entrepreneur is owner of Kootenay Tonewood, a local company that manufactures wood for the construction of musical instruments.
Last month, Living Smart BC, a “green choice” initiative sponsored by the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas, released a list of 12 small businesses that received funding for creative energy-saving projects, all of which had to demonstrate an innovative solution to increasing energy-efficiency by 20 per cent.
Kootenay Tonewood was approved for a grant to fund the installation of a biomass boiler system.
Biomass refers to organic matter, especially plant matter that can be converted to fuel and is regarded as a potential energy source.
“Graham was always bothered by the waste wood that ended up in the land fill, when we first started our business,” said wife Shelley.
“We knew there had to be a way to use that wood to benefit our business.”
Hein researched alternative heating solutions online, determined that there had to be a way to use the waste wood to the business’s advantage.
By chance, when he was looking to purchase a sawdust collector, he found a business in Delta, Akhurst Machinery Ltd., that could provide him with a biomass boiler, a 91 per cent efficient system.
“When we discovered the boiler would not only heat our shop with the waste, but also heat our dry kilns, we really got excited,” said Hein.
“This would really reduce our electrical power usage.”
The biomass boiler system was installed in November and allows the facility to use the waste wood produced on-site to heat the building and to dry the wood that they produce for musical instruments.
“We mostly burn sawdust, but can also use wood pellets, wood chips, grains and solid wood,” said Hein.
“We are still fine tuning it, but expect the boiler to pay for itself, in the next two to three years.”
The Danish have been using this technology since 1979, but it has only been available in Canada for just over two years, said Brent Vachon, an account representative for Akhurst Machinery.
“Basically, Kootenay Tonewood is turning their waste into energy in a very green, carbon neutral way,” said Vachon
Hein hand selects Engelmann spruce, a species of tree native to British Columbia, and crafts the wood into boards that are shipped to mostly Asian markets.
Last year, he exported enough crafted soundboards to make 50,000 musical instruments.
“Our soundboards are mostly used for string instruments, but pianos and violins can be crafted from them as well,” said Hein.