BANGOR, Maine - City councilors unanimously voted Monday night to amend the city’s rules regarding solid fuel boilers in some of the city’s industrial and commercial areas.
Though no decisions have been made to that end, the move paves the way for the installation of wood chip boilers to save heating costs at Bangor High School and Bangor International Airport, two of the city’ s largest consumers of heating oil.
It also would allow a local trucking and wood waste recycling company to use the outdoor wood boiler it recently bought but has been unable to use because of the city’ s existing rules.
For now, the ordinance change will apply only to certain zoning districts, specifically government and institution service, industrial and service, urban industrial, and airport development. Some city councilors, however, someday would like to see it expanded to include residential areas.
Though he did not vote against the amendment, City Councilor Gerry Palmer said he remained unconvinced that wood chips were the way to go.
“I’ m not convinced personally that the high capital cost at the front end [of the conversion to wood heat] is worth it,” particularly “when you can easily run a natural gas pipeline” to either the high school or the airport, he said.
The ordinance change was prompted by a citywide energy audit completed late last year. Engineers from Westbrook-based Honeywell Building Solutions recommended that the city consider converting the high school and much of the airport to heating systems fueled by wood chips.
As it stands, city ordinances allow wood-burning boilers to be used only if they are located within the primary structure that they serve.
In both cases, Honeywell engineers recommend that the boilers be installed in auxiliary buildings.
A new standalone structure is being considered for the school, while the airport system would be located in one of the hangars and possibly used to heat five other structures.
A comparison of heating costs presented to the council committee by Honeywell engineer Bob Marcotte earlier this month indicated the conversion could allow Bangor to generate the same amount of heat with wood as with oil at about a quarter the cost.
Honeywell consultants pegged the cost of installing a wood chip boiler at the high school, which consumes more than 125,000 gallons of heating fuel a year, at $2.3 million. The airport boiler, which would serve the domestic and international arrival buildings and four large hangars, would cost $3.8 million.
The cost of buying and installing the units aside, the estimates showed the city could generate 1 million Btu of heat for $37.95 if oil cost $4.25 a gallon. Wood chips at $60 a ton would yield the same amount of heat at a cost of $8.93.
In recent talks with the city, representatives from J.D. Raymond Transport Inc. said the company wants to use wood to heat its garage and service center at 690 Odlin Road.
In a recent letter to the city’s code enforcement division, company owner John Raymond and Controller William Rayfield said that at current market prices, the company would save more than $20,000 a year by switching from oil to wood.
Also Monday, the council set Aug. 11 as the date for a public hearing to consider placing a referendum question on the November ballot seeking to repeal the ban on left turns from State Street to Howard Street.
The issue comes before the city as the result of a citizen-initiated petition drive launched a week after the City Council’ s 4-4 vote May 28 on a proposal to lift the ban. Five votes were required to overturn it.