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Blue Hill Library to heat ‘green’

Blue Hill -

BLUE HILL – Walking into the Blue Hill Public Library this January feels the same as walking in any other winter. Now, though, pellets provide the heat and the library encourages you to ask about the heating system. The Blue Hill Public Library now heats with Maine-made pellets in boilers assembled in Maine and installed by a Maine contractor. This project demonstrates how clean, efficient, and cost effective pellet heat is for a public building.

The process started in 2009 when Boulet convened a group to investigate green technologies. The most promising development from the group was a contractor’s suggestion to install pellet boilers to replace the oil boilers. Boulet applied for a couple of grants for pellet boilers and then library board member Ciona Ulbrich pressed to apply for the “Public Demonstration Project” grant administered by Efficiency Maine and funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The library’s proposal for the grant specified boilers assembled in Maine and Maine-made pellets.

Maine Energy Systems, in Bethel, Maine, manufactures these Austrian-designed boilers from parts made in the U.S.A. and Austria. The coils at the center of each pellet boiler were welded together in Pennsylvania. OkoFEN in Austria provides the computerised controls and many other components. Maine Energy Systems has made over a hundred of these boilers since they started assembling them in Maine in early 2010. OkoFEN has been developing the designs in Europe since 1989.

Clayton Cole, president of Solartechnic Contractors, Inc. in Corinth, designed this installation and coordinated the multi-stage switch-over from two oil boilers to two pellet boilers while always providing heat for the building. Two large wood-and-fabric bins can hold just over 10 tons of pellets, about one-third of the pellets needed for a heating season.

The OkoFEN pellet boilers made by Maine Energy Systems are highly automated. A vacuum system feeds pellets from the bins into the hopper above the burner. The burners clean themselves several times each day and pack ash tightly into an ash hopper lined with a biodegradable bag made of corn. The boilers alert staff when the pellet supply diminishes to about two tons or when an ash hopper is nearing full. Staff can also view other current and recent information about temperatures in the boiler and various points in the heating system.

Heating with pellets will save money for the Blue Hill Public Library, with a projected savings of up to $50,000 over the next 10 years. The benefits of the pellet boilers extend well beyond the library and town of Blue Hill. The library currently purchases pellets from Corinth Wood Pellets in Corinth, Maine. “We have 52 people in 4 shifts during peak production.” says Randy Irish, Plant Manager there. Wood supplied to the mill changes through the year, but he says that about 50% of the current input is waste from other lumber operations including slab waste, chips, and sawmill dust. Even some of the energy used to make the pellets is wood energy; Corinth Wood Pellets burns about 1 ton of waste wood to dry 12 to 14 tons of pellets.

Pellets are also more efficient than oil although the exact figures for efficiency depend on location. The figures would be very different in Oklahoma than here in Maine. Maine Wood Heat, the manufacturer of the boilers, provided a few measures of efficiency. “Twenty-two to 25 cents of every oil dollar spent on oil stays in Maine while 82 to 84 cents of a dollar spent on pellets stays here.” reports Dutch Dresser, one of the directors of Maine Wood Heat . Dr. William Strauss, another director puts efficiency in other terms: “For 1 million BTUs of heat, pellets release 28.6 pounds of CO2. For the same 1 million BTUs, heating oil releases 219.4 pounds of CO2” Oil releases over seven times the CO2 according to this calculation. There is no oil produced or refined in Maine, but the forests are plentiful. This plays a part of another comparison: “It takes 95 thousand BTUs of fossil fuel to deliver enough pellets for 1 million BTUs of heat. For heating oil it takes 246 thousand BTUs of fossil fuel to deliver enough heating oil for the same 1 million BTUs of heat.” We use fossil fuel to deliver heat, but using fuel to process and deliver pellets provides 2 ½ times the heat. Some of the key assumptions that Dr Strauss used include 2 thousand miles from the oil well to furnace, 150 miles from pellet mill to furnace, and 60 miles from wood mill to pellet mill. The Blue Hill Public Library is less than 100 miles from their current pellet supplier.

For More Information:

Contact Name: Rich Boulet

Telephone Number: (207)374-5515

Website: http://www.bhpl.net

Email: rboulet@bhpl.net