BANGOR, Maine — The city’s high school is expected to join the growing list of former oil-guzzling properties in Bangor that are switching to natural gas.
The Bangor School Committee on Wednesday recommended the switch, which will now go to the City Council for approval.
Earlier this year the committee had approved a recommendation by Honeywell, a firm that recently conducted a comprehensive citywide energy audit, to use wood chips at Bangor High School.
However, after Bangor International Airport opted earlier this week to go with natural gas over wood chips, Superintendent Betsy Webb urged school committee members to follow suit. BIA and Bangor High School are among the city’s biggest users of oil.
The main reasons for choosing natural gas, Webb said Wednesday, were the ease and speed of conversion and fewer upfront costs. The city would have spent $2.3 million to install a wood chip boiler, but will need to spend only about $75,000 to convert to natural gas.
In April, when the school committee initially approved Honeywell’s recommendation to use wood chips at the high school, members approved a total of $4.4 million in energy improvements. With natural gas instead of wood chips, more than $2 million of that total will be available to use toward other energy efficiency measures.
Webb admitted that long-term savings favor wood chips. Based on 10-year projections, the city could potentially save $3 million more by using wood, but Jim Lucy of Honeywell said projections are fluid.
“[Natural gas] will allow you to move faster in converting, but it will also free up a pool of savings and allow you to capitalize on more work that is needed,” he said.
Some energy experts have suggested that the demand for wood chips is increasing, which in turn could drive up the price.
School committee members seemed to agree that the short-term savings and the convenience of opting for natural gas rather than wood chips out-weighed any potential savings a decade down the road.
The committee voted unanimously to recommend the natural gas option, sending it to the Bangor City Council for approval early next month.
Earlier this year, Bangor councilors agreed to convert City Hall and four other municipal buildings to natural gas.