The Project

Stage 1 Feasibility Study Results

A primary aim of Stage 1 of the Feasibility Study was to develop a concept design for a New Glasgow-wide Biomass District Heating System (DHS) and determine if the DHS could reduce heating costs for homes and business. In Stage 2, the project team will engage with the Town and residents to further explore heat plant locations, ownership structure, utility design, and biomass supply.

Masterplan Concept – Network Design and Build-Out

The New Glasgow DHS is designed as a zoned network with a transmission pipe to carry hot water from the bioenergy plant to substations that then transfer heat to zoned distribution networks.

Heat would primarily be generated in a central biomass combined heat and power (CHP) plant. The plant would be in a purpose-built energy centre, with distributed heat-only boilers to serve peak demand (~70 MW). Revenues from the electricity coproduced by the CHP would help to keep heat costs low.

The network would be built out over at least a decade, starting with the most heat dense areas, followed by expansion to connect to most single-family homes.

Click for details of DHS design considerations

Concept map of the New Glasgow Town-wide DHS

Phase 1 Concept (~5 year Build Out)

In Phase 1a, the biomass CHP plant and transmission pipe to three distribution zones would be constructed. About 150 commercial and institutional buildings would be connected.

In Phase 1b, the residential neighbourhood south of downtown with many older homes heated with fuel oil and radiators would be connected to the network, proving the concept of connecting single family homes.

Click for Photos of heat network installations

Concept map of Phase 1 of the New Glasgow DHS

Building Connections

Buildings would be connected to the distribution network via a service pipe that runs underground to a heat transfer unit (HTU) inside the building. The HTU is the connection between the heat network and a building’s heating system and is included in the estimated cost of the DHS.

HTU design depends on buildings’ size and existing heating system (e.g. hydronic or forced air). In homes and smaller commercial buildings, a pre-fabricated, wall mounted HTU would be used. In larger buildings, HTUs would be more customized.

Click for details of BUILDING ARCHETYPEs and connections

Example of a wall-mounted HTU for a single family home


We are still working to further refine costs but Stage 1 results suggest that the cost of heat from a New Glasgow-wide Biomass DHS could be lower than all alternatives, none of which are low carbon.

The development of a DHS in New Glasgow, fueled with local biomass, would also generate significant regional economic activity, creating local jobs in system construction, operation and biomass supply and keeping energy expenditures within the region.

The regional economic impact of a Town-wide Biomass DHS in New Glasgow could be up to $70 Million per year!

Graph showing percent of heating expenditures remaining in Pictou County with biomass DHS and other available heating fuels.

Next Steps – Feasibility Study Stage 2

► Refine Technical and Economic Analysis

The results of Stage 1 of this feasibility study are promising and justify completion of Stage 2. Despite a high capital cost, the micro and macroeconomics of a community-wide system could be favourable compared to the current situation and electricity-based alternatives.

Tasks to be completed in Stage 2 include:

  • In-building assessments of 50 largest buildings in New Glasgow
  • Class C costing and design of the biomass CHP, including major equipment quotes
  • Refinement of in-building conversion costs based upon in-building assessments
  • Heat network refinement and Class C network costing
  • Prefeasibility of underground electricity distribution system
  • Triple bottom line analysis and life cycle cost assessment
  • Risk analysis and risk mitigation strategy

► Public Consultations

Now that the project team has determined a community-wide biomass DHS in New Glasgow could be economically viable and has conceptualized what the network could look like, we will be looking for input from Town Staff, Council and New Glasgow residents on some key aspects of the project. Consultations with Town Staff and Council are on-going. Public Town Hall meetings are planned for Fall 2023.

Questions that will be addressed through public consultations include:

  • Where should the bioenergy plant be located?
  • What are your priorities (e.g., low cost heat, GHG reduction, regional development, etc.)?
  • What are your concerns and how can they be addressed?
  • Should electricity revenues from the biomass CHP be maximized?
  • How will the biomass supply chain be structured to ensure reliable and sustainable supply?
  • Who should be responsible for establishing and enforcing biomass sustainability criteria?
  • Who will own the heat network, bioenergy plant and in-building HTUs?
  • Who will operate the heat utility responsible for billing customers?

Click here to learn more about possible Utility Structures

Project Timeline

2021 – 2022

Secure Funding for a Feasibility Study (complete)

This step has already been completed! With support from the Town of New Glasgow, TorchLight Bioresources led the submission of a successful application to the Government of Canada’s SREP Program (Capacity Building Stream) for a feasibility study for a community-wide district heating network.

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2022 – 2023

Complete Feasibility Study (In Progress)

The aim of the feasibility study is ultimately to understand whether or not the project is economically viable for, and desired by, your community. The technology is proven but we need to understand the costs to construct and operate the system in New Glasgow to understand if heat can be delivered to you – the customer – at an affordable price.

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2023 – 2024

Secure Infrastructure Funding

Heat delivered through a community wide biomass district heating system in New Glasgow has been found to be competitive with alternatives, as long as the cost of capital is low and a power purchase agreement is secured. If the Town decides to move forward, the next step is to secure capital to construct the biomass CHP. Development and financing of the heat network relies upon building owner’s signing ‘intention-to-connect’ agreements.

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2024 – 2029

Construct Bioenergy Plant and Phase 1 of Heat Network

Once infrastructure capital is secured, a public tender would be released for the construction of the biomass CHP plant, followed by the first phase of the heat network. The successful proponent(s) would complete a final engineered design and environmental assessment for the biomass CHP and Phase 1 of the network based on the design in the feasibility study. Working with local contractors and skilled trades workers, build-out of the district network and biomass energy centre would begin.

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2029 +

Build Out Network in Phases and Increase Energy Centre Capacity

The district energy network will be built out in phases over several years according to the Masterplan developed through the feasibility study.

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See the Results of the Perceptions Surveys