Rail Ties Keep Alberta Biomass Plant On Track

The railroad system has been a vital part of North America’s industrial infrastructure for 125 years. Due to exposure to the elements and heavy use, the wooden railway ties need to be replaced about every 25 to 30 years. With nearly 30,000 miles of railway track and 3,000 railway ties per mile, Canadian railroads need to replace about 3.5 million railroad ties every year. But what happens to all those old rail ties? Green Energy Solution Industries has a solution: burn them to generate electricity.

The Alberta-based company is on track, so to speak, to build a railroad waste-to-energy power plant outside of Edmonton, Alberta. The 10-acre site is at the Duagh Plant Facility of GESI’s partner On-Track Railway Operations. On-Track is a “railway material handling” company that, among other things, shreds spent rail ties through a heavy-duty Doppstadt Shredder, which can grind up to 300 tons of rail ties per day.

on-track

image via On-Track

The 20-megawatt (MW) generation facility will be eligible for peak pricing, mandatory purchasing and possibly for carbon credits. According to GESI, the site is an ideal location for its operations, because it offers access to grid tie-in locations, rail and highway access, and a ready supply of feedstock. Alberta alone has nearly 5,000 miles of railway track; and, according to GESI, there are already over half a million rail ties waiting to be shredded and burned.

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).