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UMFK RECEIVES $500K GRANT FOR BIOMASS ENERGY HEAT PROJECT / Biomass System Expected to Save Campus $1 Million in Next 10 Years

May 24, 2011


The University of Maine at Fort Kent has been awarded a grant of $500,000 by the state Department of Conservation with federal stimulus funds to convert its largest residence hall (The Lodge), and its athletics complex (Sports Center) to a biomass heating system. The biomass system will provide heat for 1.75 acres of floor space and is expected to save the campus nearly $1 million in heating costs in the next decade. 

The grant award was announced by Doug Denico, director of the Maine Forest Service, in a letter to John D. Murphy, vice president of Administration at UMFK.
The total cost of the project is $858,000, which includes $500,000 (58 percent) from the Wood to Energy grant; UMFK’s cash match of $318,000 (37 percent); and $40,000 (five percent) representing in-kind labor contributions.
“Replacing non-renewable, foreign fossil fuels with renewable, local biomass fuels promotes sustainable, regional resource development,” said UMFK President, Wilson G. Hess. “Promoting renewable biomass fuels is an important economic development opportunity for northern Maine. It is part of our broader vision for UMFK to model sustainable economic and environmental practices,” Hess added.
UMFK plans to replace a fuel oil boiler located in its Sports Center with a high-efficiency biomass boiler that will heat the Sports Center and The Lodge.  Heat will be transferred to The Lodge by means of an underground distribution system.
The Sports Center and The Lodge consume, on average, 37,292 gallons of #2 heating oil, annually. At $3.77/gallon (effective price as of 3/14/11), the annual cost of heating both buildings currently is $140,591. 
Following the conversion to the biomass boiler, UMFK expects to burn approximately 270 tons of wood pellets, annually, based on the Btu conversion, and an efficiency improvement factor. At a cost of $190 per ton, the University will spend $51,110 to heat the two facilities, resulting in an annual savings of $89,481.
During a ten-year period, savings would approach $1 million, assuming a modest rise in oil prices compared to wood pellets, as is expected.
The new primary boiler is anticipated to be a Skanden 350-kilowatt biomass boiler and feed system. The Sports Center has a 9,300 cubic foot storage bin adjacent to the facility’s boiler room, providing enough space for more than 150 tons of wood pellets. The bin will be modified slightly to accommodate wood pellets and the delivery system.
The new heating plant will be multi-fuel, and capable of burning various biomass products depending on price and availability. Assuming the use of biomass fuel, the carbon reduction associated with the anticipated decrease of 37,292 gallons of heating oil would be approximately 378 metric tons per year.
Three hundred seventy-eight metric tons of carbon dioxide represents nearly 30 percent of UMFK’s fossil carbon emissions associated with space and water heating, and more than 11 percent of all fossil carbon emissions, including those from electricity consumption, commuting (faculty/staff/students), campus fleet, and travel for University business.
The American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, to which UMFK is a signatory, requires that the University reduce its fossil carbon footprint to zero by mid-century. This will be achieved through reductions in fossil fuel-based energy resources, demand reductions through conservation and efficiency improvements, and offsets through green energy credits and/or carbon sequestration.
The 35,000 square-foot Sports Center currently has identical 37-year-old steam boilers. The Lodge has two, seven-year-old #2 oil boilers for the 47,389 square-foot residence hall. 
One of the oil-fired boilers now in use at the Sports Center will be retained as a backup boiler for emergencies, during maintenance of the new system, and to supplement the new system during times of peak demand. One of the relatively new boilers from the Lodge will be moved to another campus facility to replace an older, less efficient unit.
“At UMFK we understand that tomorrow’s energy systems will consist of a mix of technologies and resources that will include biomass in appropriate places. Northern Maine is one of those places and the biomass boiler grant we have received through the State of Maine’s Wood to Energy Program will help UMFK sustainably meet its energy needs and fulfill its educational mission,” said Brian Kermath, author of the grant proposal and director of the Center for Rural Sustainable Development at UMFK.
“Indeed, the project will be good for the local economy, the environment, and the University’s bottom line. It also will help educate the larger community on critical energy issues. The installation will replace the heating systems for two buildings, and will displace some 30 percent of the university’s fuel oil consumption. We look forward to adding additional biomass, and other alternative energy, technologies in the future,” Kermath added.
The University anticipates contracting with Northeast Pellets, LLC, in Ashland, Maine, as its wood pellet supplier. One-hundred percent of the fuel supply will come from certified sources, including wood certified under Maine Tree Farm, Sustainable Forestry Initiative and Forest Stewardship Council.
The University is prepared to order the Skanden biomass boiler and feed system once grant funding is received. Project completion is anticipated in six months.
The biomass project is a Public Building Wood to Energy Project, funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the economic stimulus package enacted by the United States Congress.