The study area of eastern Ontario is one that is experiencing a shift away from fossil fuels and becoming more dependent on bio-based sources such as wood bioenergy (Levin et al., 2011). This shift could support economic development and provide continued employment opportunities in the forest industry. Eastern Ontario has several advantages for bioenergy development, including the region being well-developed for regional transport infrastructure (Levin et al., 2011). Their public demand for local energy, heat and the fact that the area is dedicated to develop bioenergy in the region, make it an ideal study area (Levin et al., 2011). While this region has the potential to be very proficient in bioenergy production, the understanding of spatial distribution of a resource base are lacking, and terms of supply, cost and availability are inaccurate.
This study area covers over 5.2 million hectares of land and 5% of the total land base in Ontario (Calvert & Mabee, 2014). In a study by Calvert and Mabee (2014), three urban centres were identified and compared using supply-cost curves. Cornwall was selected as an agricultural centre, Bancroft as a forestry centre and Smiths Falls as an urban centre located at the transition zone (2014). These three centres will be the urban centres used to determine supply-cost curves using vector data for comparison with the raster derived supply-cost curves of the Calvert and Mabee (2014) study.
A buffer determines the counties within 200 km of the three urban centres (Calvert & Mabee, 2014). Within this buffer, 14 counties are examined as shown in Figure 1. The county of Nipissing is excluded from this study area due to Algonquin Park being located within the 200 km buffer (Calvert & Mabee, 2014). These counties are characterized into three distinct land cover zones (Calvert & Mabee, 2014). Forested land dominates the land cover in the northern section of the study area (Figure 1), and most of the forested land is privately owned (Levin et al., 2011). Towards the south, a distinct shift from forested lands to agricultural lands is apparent (Figure 1). The southern section of eastern Ontario is also characterized by urban development. This agricultural area is another significant source of biomass and claims approximately 7300-8300 km2 of active cropland (Calvert & Mabee, 2014). Switchgrass is among the most suitable crops in the area due to the climate and soil types of this region (Jannasch et al., 2001). The third distinct land cover section is defined as a transition zone. This entails that the area is home to both agricultural land and forested land. This area can be found in 4 counties and is most predominant in the county of Lanark, where the city of Smiths Falls is located.
Figure 1: Map of study area, showing the cities of interest where there are prospective locations for the biomass resources facilities in eastern Ontario, Canada.