LCS holds Biomass Open House

12 years ago

By Barbara Scott

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Aroostook Republican photo/Barb Scott
Wayne St. Peter, left, RSU 39 physical plant superintendent, was recognized during the April 4 BioMass Open House at the Limestone Community School, by Superintendent Frank McElwain for his countless hours of dedication and expertise he provides to the RSU.

Staff Writer

LIMESTONE —Administrators at the Limestone Community School hosted a Biomass Boiler open house/dedication April 4, with RSU 39 Superintendent Frank McElwain and members of the Board of Education in attendance. The event allowed area residents and visiting dignitaries an opportunity to witness the new biomass woodchip boiler in operation as well as learn about the history of the $1.8 million project, the second such project to be completed within RSU 39.

Following a welcome by McElwain in which he commended the RSU 39 committee for their continued support of the LCS project (as well as the Caribou High School biomass project) resulting in total support of local businesses, not seeking or relying on out-of-state or out-of-country fuel resources, instead using renewable energy, available within the area. The majority of the labor on both the CHS and LCS was done by local contractors and RSU employees.

McElwain remarked on the continuous dedication and hard work of Wayne St. Peter, RSU physical plant superintendent, who also oversees all RSU 39 transportation and maintenance. “Wayne is my go-to person,” stated McElwain, “if there is a problem, regardless of what it deals with, he fixes it — no problem.” St. Peter was presented with a framed collage of photos taken during the work, which evolved throughout the biomass boiler projects.

Following McElwain’s address a project overview was given by Mark Power, Maine Energy Services Team Leader and Tom Wood, Maine Forest Service senior project planner, representing Maine Forestry and  American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding. Wood was responsible for the RSU 39’s $750,000 grant funding for the project, which was available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In his remarks, Woods stated that the LCS project was one of 22 similar projects in the state with nine of these being in Aroostook County. “I want to say that all of the work done on these two local projects has been of the very highest quality.”

In a letter from Sen. Susan Collins, read by Phil Bosse, the Senator stated in part, “It is a pleasure to congratulate Superintendent Frank McElwain, and the staff of RSU 39 and the Limestone Community School on the startup of the new biomass boiler. This marks a significant milestone and I commend the Maine Forest Service for supporting this initiative. According to the Maine Forest Service, nearly 78 cents of every dollar spent on fuel oil leaves our state, whereas 100 percent of every dollar spent on biomass stays right here. The emerging wood biomass boiler industry has the potential to create hundreds of new jobs in our state and to lessen the grip foreign oil has on us.”    

Sen. Olympia Snowe’s remarks, read by her representative Kim Rohn, stated in part, “I couldn’t be more pleased to note that this critically needed project employs funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to reduce heating costs at Limestone Community School through the use of local renewable wood to energy resources while also stimulating employment opportunities in Maine’s forest industry. This is truly a win-win proposition. Superintendent Frank McElwain has been a stalwart leader and advocate for alternative energy and a consensus builder within entities and agencies, as well as the community to ensure that this endeavor became a realty. I thank Mr. McElwain and his staff, for their leadership and pro-active thinking.”

Speaking on behalf of Congressman Michael Michaud, Barbara Hayslett shared the following remarks from the congressman. “I’d like to congratulate the Eastern Aroostook RSU and the Limestone Community School on the completion of this impressive project. You recognized an important opportunity to reduce your energy costs by converting to a more environmentally friendly and cost-saving woodchip boiler.  You did, quite frankly, what the federal government should be doing more of — moving forward on policies that help address our addiction to oil. I’d like to congratulate all of those present today who played a part in making this new boiler a reality. You should be proud to be a leader in promoting renewable energy as well as choosing a locally produced energy source.”

The 142,441-square foot Limestone Community School was built in 1972. In 2009 the RSU 39 partnered with TRANE beginning a $300,000 energy audit project which included upgrades, lighting improvements, an automated pool cover among other improvements.

The biomass project/mechanical upgrades was part of a second phase of improvements at the facility valued at $1.75 million, supported by the $750,000 Wood to Energy grant. According to officials the total projected savings equals $128,830 for both phases of the energy performance contract, also including combined thermal and electrical energy savings due to the measures recommended and installed by Trane.

The estimated woodchip consumption is 750 tons per year (at an estimated $70 per ton), compared to the historical oil consumption of the former system of 60,000 gallons of heating oil per year at an ever fluctuating and increasing cost.

The woodchips, stored in a 62-ton capacity heated underground storage bin, are transferred to the boiler via an auger feed.

A back up-system of an existing boiler (which was converted to burn number 2 oil) and a new additional 350 MBH oil-fired boiler will be used to provide summertime domestic hot water at the school, as well as for heating the inside pool.