Letter: Solving air quality isn’t rocket science

Kudos to RMG’s proposed innovative quick electrical solution to Valemount’s hazardous winter air. It potentially functions well for election cycle, budget shifting bureaucrats. Unfortunately, implementation, as written, only happens after air particulate passes the legal threshold: There’s the catch. When particulate is almost hazardous, nothing happens; Our most vulnerable still suffer-albeit not nearly as badly.

Bigger picture/longer term: Citizen’s health should matter more than that, and pressing the Province toward longer term solutions is essential, particularly in a growing village.

Geothermal is the ‘elephant in the room’ that seems to loom over any discussion of energy in Valemount, and it should be given a lot more attention in Victoria, but there are others and some are considerably less expensive to set up and some create more jobs.

Bio-Gasification: Grow short-cycle material (wood or hemp?) locally specifically for energy production. A centralized super efficient heating unit pre-dries fuels, gaining burn efficiency and massively reducing already low per-capita particulate. Byproducts: agricultural biochar, and solvents.

Compost Coppicing: By keeping broad-leafed trees young through trimming, we produce nutrient dense green material perpetually. Shredding and piling this material centrally creates heat via a bio-reaction. Byproducts: weed-free compost (increases nutrients and water retention in Valemount’s sandy soil), and methane. Burn the latter for additional heat, or tank it for woodlot machine fuel. Young broad-leafed forests = a fire guard. Like geothermal, and wood gasification, hot water goes to home radiators.

Rocket Mass Heaters: A very different type of home-scale wood burner, RMH’s operate at much higher internal temperatures, burning off excess volatiles in a controlled chimney fire during every burn. That’s the rocket. The mass is a dedicated structure which absorbs that heat and slowly radiates it into a house. Super efficient, they smokelessly burn a lot less wood. A couple downsides with them: As of yet, they are not certified and they need to be built with proper materials in very specific ways. The beauty is, despite the name, this isn’t ‘rocket science’: Anybody can get the plans, AND build it themselves for under $500.

Could Valemount be the place where the Rocket Mass Heaters becomes the norm and sets the new standard for Provincial Code? Or could a combination of all these solutions put Valemount on the map as center for innovation?
The real hurdle to be jumped: Election cycle shortsightedness, and energy wasting politicking lags government implementation 20+ years behind innovation. Crisis, though, can bring opportunity.

Rob Mercereau
Dunster, B.C

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