2011-09-29 / Front Page

SF Heating, Energy Talks Progress

Additional presentations held on biomass boiler, energy service projects
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

Having previously received some preliminary information and figures on the suggested installation of a biomass boiler at Southern Fulton Junior/Senior High School, school board members and building supervisors were recently treated to an additional presentation pertaining to the feasibility and costs of such a heating project.

Dan Wilson from Wilson Engineering stood before the board last Tuesday evening with cost estimates pertaining to two possible biomass boiler options – a wood pellets and wood chips. Benefits of installing a biomass system range from the use of renewal energy to offset the usage of fossil fuels to energy dollars staying in the area, Wilson pointed out.

A wood-chip system would cost the district slightly more than $1 million, while a pellet boiler project has been estimated at just under $500,000. In speaking further about the pellet system, Wilson noted the boiler could be containerized and placed on a simple foundation.

“It could make for a very inexpensive project,” he added. Cost for the bulk delivery of pellets has been set at $170 per ton, and delivery could be as close as 85 miles away depending on the chosen vendor.

By using wood chips, Wilson stated the district could anticipate saving $55,000 in comparison to $38,000 annually for wood pellets. The cost of pellet usage is tied “fairly closely” with the price of fuel oil and can be more volatile than wood chips because pellets are a globally traded commodity.

According to Wilson, either biomass boiler, if approved, would need to be located in the vicinity of the high school’s greenhouse in order to keep it near the existing boiler system and thereby cut down on pipe installation expenses,

Wilson said. In addition, the existing fuel oil boilers would remain on site and be used as backup for use during peak or low-use periods.

During Wilson’s presentation, the board posed various questions pertaining to creosote buildup as well as emissions, life expectancy of a biomass boiler and the possibility of obtaining grant money.

Wilson concluded he was not aware of any of his company’s biomass systems that have been operating for longer than 20 years. Replacements of augers and other standard parts could be expected.

District Superintendent Kendra Trail shared with the board that the Mountain View School District located in Susquehanna County started its system in 1991.

On the heels of Wilson’s presentation, Rob Strickler and Rick Evans from Reynolds Energy located in Harrisburg took center stage and referenced a project at the Northern Bedford School District that was projected to cost an estimated $19 million for renovations and energy modifications. Scrapping their initial project, Evans stated officials looked at an energy project of around $2.4 million that would result in an annual savings of $163,000. Included in their project is almost $2 million for a biomass wood-chip boiler to be tied into the Northern Bedford School District’s three buildings. Grant funding could help offset the overall cost by as much as $746,000.

Looking at the cost estimates just shared with Southern Fulton on a proposed biomass system for their junior/senior high school, Evans stated he felt Wilson’s numbers were “conservative.”

Evans and Strickler went on to review how energy savings can count toward PlanCon reimbursement. “It’s a powerful tool,” Evans said. “You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t look at it ... . If you don’t take it, you’re leaving money on the table.”

“You’re spending the minimum amount of money to get the maximum reimbursement,” he added.

In the event the school would want to proceed with a biomass project and investigate energy savings further, Reynolds Energy would prepare a Level 2 energy audit and incorporate the findings of the biomass feasibility study. Cost for the energy audit would likely fall between $11,000 and $12,000 and completion would take approximately two months.

The board did not take any formal action upon hearing the presentations.

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