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High School Receives 

Wood Boiler Grant


By: David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, June 15, 2011

FORT FAIRFIELD—Fort Fairfield school system is one of eleven organizations across Maine to be awarded grant money to install a wood boiler for heating their buildings. Total grant funds for the oil-to-wood heating projects are $3.2 million and are derived from federal recovery funds.

The grants are the third and final round awarded under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 (ARRA) energy grants, which first were announced in August 2009 and awarded by the USDA Forest Service to the Maine Forest Service (MFS).

The Wood to Energy Grants Program awards, ranging from $25,000 to $500,000, are going to Maine institutions across the state, including four schools, four towns, one college, one university and one hospital. The awards will help each institution convert from heating with oil to heating with wood chips or wood pellets, according to the Maine Forest Service.

Fort Fairfield Schools have received a $500,000 grant toward a $1,465,750 project. By converting the Fort Fairfield Elementary and Middle/High schools to wood heat, the first-year savings on fuel will exceed $80,000 at last year's contract price.

"At current fuel prices, this wood boiler will pay for itself in six or seven years. Will be burning $50,000 in wood chips instead of $120,000 in fuel oil - at last year's price," said Fort Fairfield school superintendent Marc Gendron. "I'm extremely happy. It's going to be some work but I think in the long run it provides jobs to our local community, rather than shipping oil money overseas."

The latest projects are expected to use 2,171 tons of pellets and 3,035 tons of chips annually, according to the Maine Forest Service.

“This program is about harvesting, processing, transporting and consuming more Maine wood,” Maine Governor Paul LePage said. “This all adds up to more Maine jobs.”

All 22 ARRA grant recipients have committed to using Maine wood products for their new energy projects, according to MFS officials.

“The Maine Forest Service Wood to Energy Grants Program is helping schools, a community college, two branches of the University of Maine System, hospitals, towns and cities convert to a fuel supply that supports local forest land owners, local harvesters, local chippers and pellet manufacturers, and local haulers,” said Doug Denico, Maine Forest Service director. “In turn, the great forest resources of the state will support these important institutions with renewable, reliable, plentiful and economical fuel. It is the kind of win-win situation that is often spoken of, but that has now become a reality.”

“Increased use of wood fuels provides significant energy, environmental and economic advantages for Maine schools, hospitals and public buildings,” said Ken Fletcher, director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security. “The OEIS supports these projects as steps forward in our need to curb the effects of oil dependence and to spur local economic development opportunities, including job creation potential of moving to clean, renewable, made-in-Maine energy resources.”

In addition to Fort Fairfield High School, other facilities in Aroostook County who received grants for wood boilers are University of Maine at Fort Kent and Northern Maine Community College.

The new wood boiler will be located at Fort Fairfield High School in a stand-alone building behind what was the woodworking shop area. The boiler will be large enough to provide hot water heat for both the Middle/High School building, as well as the Elementary School, via a system of underground piping to also be installed with the project.

The grant came in three weeks later than expected, causing scheduling problems with the preferred manufacturer of the wood boiler, Messerschmitt. "Unfortunately, the Messerschmitt boiler won’t get here until January and I don’t want to be installing a boiler in below zero weather" said Gendron. "We have changed to a Hurst boiler, which is equally as good. In fact, Hurst makes the core for the Messerschmitt so I’m convinced we’ll have a quality system."

A wood boiler committee has been formed to oversee the project and to research wood chip suppliers for Fort Fairfield. Scott Clark volunteered to be the school board representative on that committee.

Trane Corporation will be assisting with design, installation and financing of the entire project, which has been capped at $1.4 million. “We may be able to get terms of zero percent financing through Trane, but worst case will be 2 to 3 percent,” said Gendron.

When completed, the latest projects will save the recipients between one half to two thirds on their annual heating bills, according to the MFS senior planner. In addition, rather than buying foreign oil, the grant recipients will purchase Maine wood processed and delivered by Maine workers, Wood pointed out.

“The local tax dollar spent on heat will now stay local, supporting local forest landowners, local harvesters, local chippers, and local haulers,” Wood said.

All combined, total awards have now reached $10.5 million. Remaining funds are being used for administration and for supporting the projects. When completed the total construction costs for all 22 projects in Maine will exceed $23.9 million.







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