NMCC commissions new biomass boiler

12 years ago

NMCC commissions new biomass boiler

NE-NMCC BIOMASS BOILER-CLR-DC-ALL-39

Staff photo/Scott Mitchell Johnson

    SWISS GIFT — Philipp Lüscher, left, chief executive officer of the Schmid energy group, the Swiss company that designed Northern Maine Community College’s new biomass boiler, presents NMCC President Timothy Crowley with a “typical Swiss present” — a cowbell — at a dedication ceremony last Wednesday.

The new $1 million boiler will provide heat to the two largest buildings on campus, and the boiler capacity will replace nearly 70 percent of the campus’ fuel oil consumption with renewable energy. During the commissioning ceremony for the boiler, Crowley presented Lüscher with a framed photograph taken by Paul Cyr.

By Scott Mitchell Johnson

Staff Writer

    PRESQUE ISLE — A new $1 million boiler — the first of its kind in the Maine Community College System — was commissioned last Wednesday at Northern Maine Community College.
    The biomass boiler will provide heat to the two largest buildings on campus — the Christie Complex and the Mailman Trades Building — and the boiler capacity will replace nearly 70 percent of the campus’ fuel oil consumption with renewable energy. By utilizing local wood pellets, NMCC expects to save approximately 40,000 gallons in fuel oil, or upwards of $80,000 depending on the market.
    “The real value in this is that we’ll be reducing our energy costs, and by reducing our energy costs, we’ll have money to put into a classroom or to support a faculty member,” said Timothy Crowley, NMCC president. “That’s what this is about.
    “The college is very grateful for the collaboration and generosity of the state and federal agencies, and private and local entities which made this plan a reality,” he said. “After 10 months of construction and installation, we will soon begin to benefit from significant energy cost savings, an economic boost for the region, and a reduction in carbon emissions.”
    Crowley said in addition to the obvious cost savings, the new boiler will provide a hands-on learning opportunity for students.
    “Our goal is to have a solid fuel license program — a certificate level program — so our students can become technicians,” he said. “We’ll start that program in the spring, and we want them to be able to go out and work as this industry grows in the state and the Northeast.
    “We are very confident that this project — with its instructional value and facility value — will help us put more resources in the classroom for students and faculty,” said Crowley.
    The new 900-kilowatt unit is replacing a more than 30-year-old boiler in the Mailman Trades Building, which houses classroom and lab space for many of the college’s trade and technology programs. A pellet silo (fuel storage) has been installed on a concrete pad just outside the boiler room. The silo holds 50 tons of pellets. The project connects the trades building with underground piping to the Christie Complex, NMCC’s largest building, where most of the classrooms and campus offices are located.
    Philipp Lüscher, chief executive officer of the Schmid energy group, the Swiss company that designed the equipment, was on hand for the dedication ceremony.
    “We are proud to have our first Schmid installation in North America here at Northern Maine Community College,” he said. “Thank you for giving us this platform. From our point of view, it’s an absolutely professional installation, and I’d like to congratulate everyone involved in this project.
    “Biomass energy starts in the local communities, and you have the wood here and a very good, trained staff,” said Lüscher, “and Presque Isle is the right place to be with our first installation.”
    Northeast Pellets of Ashland will supply the pellets.
    “We’re estimating we’ll use about 350 tons of pellets throughout the course of the year,” said Barry Ingraham, director of physical plant and technology at NMCC. “This is a hot water, low pressure system. In addition to wood pellets, this system can handle wood chips and grass pellets. We wanted a system so that if the markets change, we had the flexibility to have the boiler adapt to whatever we needed it to.”
    Ingraham said the boiler, which will be online full-time in November, is guaranteed for 10 years, but the life expectancy of the equipment is 20-25 years.
    The project was made possible, in part, through a $500,000 federal grant administered by the Maine Forest Service.
    “This biomass project is good for the college, the community, forest landowners and those working in the forest industry,” said Robert Clark, group leader of forest management for the USDA Forest Service’s Northeastern area. “The state-of-the-art wood biomass heating system here enhances the college’s leadership in the emerging technology field of renewable energy, and the grant money awarded to NMCC stimulated the local economy by creating new jobs, as well as preventing the loss of existing jobs. It’s a very exciting project.”
    More than $3 million has been invested over the past few years to make the campus more energy efficient. Projects have included lighting and building upgrades, mechanical renovations, and insulation and building controls installation.