GREENVILLE, Maine — If the Greenville School System is successful in getting a Public Building Wood to Energy Program grant through the Maine Forest Service, it could mean saving about $80,000 a year.
The submission for the $750,000 grant will be one of the last projects Dr. Ken Woodbury, Piscataquis County’s community development specialist, submits before he leaves for his new job in the Marshall Islands.
With declining revenue and enrollment, school officials are planning to consolidate pupils from two schools into one school. The multimillion-dollar cost to renovate the Oakes building to allow the consolidation is hefty for this small community.
“What we’re looking at is how can we take the pieces of that multimillion renovation plan and see how we can get grant funds for those pieces to reduce the cost to the taxpayer,” Woodbury said Tuesday.
The grant funds, if awarded, would allow the school to change from a steam oil-fired boiler to a biomass forced-hot-water boiler. The hot water from the school would be piped underground into the Pritham Gymnasium for added savings. The project would reduce the costs in two ways, Woodbury said. First, it would remove the $500,000 to $1 million cost of a new boiler from the total renovation costs. “That’s a big plus,” he said. It also would reduce the bond issue that would be necessary, he said.
Greenville Superintendent Heather Perry said it made sense to connect the grant proposal to the proposed renovation. “The grant requires a 10 percent in-kind match so the school would use the transfer from the current steam-based system to a forced hot water system as the local match to move forward,” she said.
The oil boilers would remain in place as a backup system to the wood system so some consumption is anticipated, Perry said. The changeover would dramatically reduce the oil consumption from a 10-year average of about 39,680 gallons of No. 2 fuel oil a year to less than 8,000 gallons yearly, she said. This would dramatically reduce the carbon footprint now associated with the Greenville School Department, she said.
If such a biomass boiler had been in place last year, the school could have saved in the range of $55,000 to $82,587 depending upon the price of wood chips, according to Woodbury. Wood chips, which are readily available in the region, are planned for use rather than pellets because of the size of the buildings. The fuel oil cost for the school system last year was $92,283.
“You’re talking about $10,000 worth of fuel verses $92,000 worth of fuel,” Woodbury said. The school could take the savings and pay for the bond issue, he said. “This would allow the school district to float a bond without any increase in the school budget, which means that you can get a lot more done for your high school without any cost to the taxpayers.” In addition, local taxpayers will not have to foot the interest on a bond because Woodbury obtained a grant under which the federal government will cover 100 percent of the interest costs.