PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — As the population focuses more on green energy, schools, businesses and homeowners are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprints.
A number of Aroostook County agencies, including the University of Maine at Presque Isle, will be able to do that thanks to funding from the Maine Department of Conservation.
The DOC announced last week that four Aroostook County oil-to-wood heating projects would receive more than $5.55 million in federal stimulus funds.
UMPI received $750,000 to help replace two oil-fired boilers with a wood chip boiler.
The new boiler will be the heating source for two of UMPI’s primary teaching facilities, Pullen Hall and Folsom Hall.
In addition to the UMPI project, the grants will provide partial funding for projects at Northern Maine Medical Center in Fort Kent and two Aroostook County school systems — RSU 39 in Limestone and Madawaska Junior-Senior High School.
Don Zillman, president of UMPI, said the university was “thrilled” to receive the grant, which he said would both improve the efficiency of its campus facilities and help the campus move closer “to meeting our carbon-neutral commitment.”
All of the projects that received money will replace or supplement their existing systems with wood chip or pellet boilers, which will save thousands of gallons of oil. In addition, the projects will reduce dependence on nonrenewable energy resources, support sustainable forestry and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to state officials.
They also said the projects are helping to create and retain more than 130 jobs in Maine.
The new wood-fired boiler selected by UMPI will use either wood pellets or wood chips. College officials said the university plans to use wood pellets obtained locally from Northeast Pellets in Ashland. The pellets are manufactured from waste wood from certified local mills.
Campus officials anticipate that the project will begin in May 2011 with completion in August 2011.
In RSU 39, officials will use their $750,000 award for the installation of a wood chip boiler to supplement the current heating system at Limestone Community School. The new system is expected to save the school department more than 63,000 gallons of oil. The estimated total project cost is $1.5 million.
Madawaska Junior-Senior High School will use its $750,000 for installation of a wood chip boiler to heat the main building and to displace approximately 64,000 gallons of fuel oil. The total cost of the project is $1.3 million.
At Northern Maine Medical Center in Fort Kent, the $750,000 will replace the current system with a wood chip boiler to heat the main building. It will save about 97,000 gallons of fuel. The total project cost is $2.8 million.
Walt Elish, president of Aroostook Partnership for Progress, a public-private partnership dedicated to advancing economic development in The County, also was pleased to hear news of the awards.
“One hundred percent of each dollar spent on locally produced biomass benefits the regional economy,” he said. “Our Mobilize Northern Maine Biomass to Energy Industry Action Team set a goal of converting 10 commercial boilers and 4,500 residential units to biomass by 2015 and these grants will contribute toward assisting us in achieving these important goals.”