Pleasant Street Academy Biomass District Heating System
$2.6 Million Biomass Grant to Save Campus in Energy Costs
The University and the Maine School Administrative District #27 received a $2.7 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant in the fall of 2011 to design and construct a biomass heating system, which is expected to heat 11 buildings on the UMFK and Fort Kent Community High School campuses, and to save the two institutions more than $4 million in combined energy costs during the next 10 years.
The USDA grant is the second biomass project awarded to UMFK. In May 2012, the University dedicated a wood-to-energy heating system that will provide heat for 1.75 acres of floor space and is expected to save the campus nearly $1 million in the next decade.
With this project, UMFK will complete the conversion of its entire campus from foreign oil to local biomass alternative fuel sources for heat and hot water needs. The project also will spur northern Maine's growing wood pellet and biomass fuel by consuming more than 1,300 tons of wood biomass annually. It will serve as a working environmental education example of local renewable fuel replacing imported non-renewal oil, and will dramatically reduce the two campus' annual energy costs.
UMFK and M.S.A.D. 27 partnered together, in an extension of their joint five-year-old College Community Project, to apply for, and develop, the environmentally-friendly initiative. The project involves the purchase and installation of a large biomass heating system that will be connected by underground hot water pipes to nine university, and two high school buildings.
The district heating plant will:
- lower fuel costs by 80 percent
- stabilize fuel prices
- stimulate the local economy
- enhance environmental sustainability
- strengthen national security by reducing dependence on foreign oil
- reduce maintenance costs by displacing eight, oil-fired boilers, with a single state-of-the-art boiler
- help UMFK meet its climate neutrality obligations under the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment
- complement collaborative efforts between UMFK and M.S.A.D. 27
The biomass district heating plant will be similar to fossil fuel heating systems in that it provides hot water for a variety of uses to many buildings. However, instead of fossil fuels, the plant will burn locally sourced, environmentally-friendly, climate neutral, renewable biomass.
Wood chips are available at an "energy equivalent" price that is approximately 80 percent lower than the cost of heating oil. That would cut heating costs for the affected facilities and enable UMFK and M.S.A.D. 27 to save nearly $300,000 in the first year alone. The five-year savings are projected to be nearly $1.8 million.
The biomass boiler also will boost the local economy by dramatically reducing costs; supporting local landowners and natural resources based workers; keeping dollars spent on energy within the local economy; stabilizing the heating portion of the institutions' budgets; retaining jobs through costs savings; and, creating new jobs.