2012-01-26 / Local & State

SF Continues To Explore Energy Options

Hears presentation on wood pellet boiler for elementar y
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

Southern Fulton School District continued to explore all possible avenues in energy alternatives last week when the school board members heard additional information on a wood pellet biomass boiler for the elementary as well as the additional benefits of an energy savings performance contract.

In a conference call with Kendy Hinkle, representing the board and administration of the St. Clair School District in Schuylkill County, Hinkle presented a rough outline to the board of her prior dealings with a 15-year energy savings contract. Having been hired as superintendent in July 2007, Hinkle said the district had $1 million in reserves on her arrival in addition to various mechanical issues and 40-year-old boilers.

By fall of 2008, Hinkle stated talks began with the board regarding various heating options such as geothermal and solar power, which were not viable options for St. Clair. By January of the following year, performance contract interviews were being held to discuss upgrades to the boilers, HVAC, lighting and plumbing, according to Hinkle.

The project was estimated at $1.46 million, and the district reportedly borrowed $1.5 million. Hinkle noted the bids were much lower than anticipated, and the district was able to complete its allotted projects and more for less than $1.5 million. Overseeing the project on a daily basis was a clerk of the works from Reynold’s Energy Services, who also oversaw the commissioning and permitting process.

Hinkle concluded this project was only meant to be a band aid as the district is tentatively slated to break ground in April on a PlanCon project.

Under questioning by Southern Fulton’s Superintendent Kendra Trail, Hinkle said her board felt “liberated” knowing that the liability was shared with the energy savings company. She added the experience was “very positive for us.”

After the conversation with Hinkle, Mike Palco of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources shared the results of a feasibility study on the pros and cons of wood chip versus wood pellet boilers for the elementary facility. According to Palco, the “best fit for the elementary” is a pellet boiler. One pellet manufacturer in the Port Royal area is currently interested in delivering to the school.

District staff would need to allot one hour weekly for ash removal and an additional 20 minutes between the mornings and afternoons to listen to the system and ensure it is functioning properly.

A pellet biomass boiler, Palco said, is a smaller system and therefore less expensive. However, the pellets are more expensive than chips. Including 4 percent inflation, the pellets are anticipated to cost $175 per ton.

Without grant funding, the capital or hardware costs have been calculated at $389,620. It is anticipated the district could save $14,669 annually.

“At year nine, this system begins paying for itself ... . At year 20, you’ve paid for the system,” stated Palco. Industry standards show systems are still functioning at 30 years with an overall life expectancy of 50 years.

No formal action was taken by the board on either agenda item.

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