BENTON, NH — The Glencliff Home, a health care facility on the side of Mount Moosilauke, is the only state facility operating entirely off the grid.
And it will stay that way, thanks to almost $4 million in federal dollars to upgrade a hydrowheel and install a new wood-chip burning biomass plant. The project continues a tradition of self-sufficiency that dates back to 1906.
“We are really excited about this project,” said Todd Bickford, administrator of the home.
Dr. Ezra Mitchell founded Glencliff as a tuberculosis sanitarium. Today, the campus provides long-term nursing-home care to 114 New Hampshire residents with mental illness and/developmental disabilities.
A hydrowheel inside a brick structure about a mile below the campus in Warren has provided 30 percent of the electricity needs of the campus, while diesel power has been trucked in and used for the rest.
Beverly Kowalik, project manager and a mechanical engineer, finds this project in a quiet corner of Grafton County intriguing.
“There will be a huge savings in the amount of diesel fuel needed and the number 6 fuel for heat and hot water,” she said.
Bickford said the improvements will mean only about 10 percent of the Glencliff’s energy needs will come from diesel. Two steam engines are to be built, along with two new back-up generators in the biomass plant.
The state will put out to bid the wood chip contract, which could mean more local woods and trucking jobs.
On Friday, Bickford and Mike Archer, plant maintenance engineer, jumped into a four-wheel-drive truck to show the dam and mountainside impoundment about a mile above the campus. Water from the impoundment is diverted into a 10-inch pipe, which goes to eight inches and runs along the side of Still Brook, down the mountain to the hydrowheel.
“Water flows from a pond down the hill to the wheel and generates electricity,” Kowalik said. “It’s simplistic but it’s mechanical and it works.”
New electronic controls will give it state-of-the-art technology, while the biomass will mean that half the year in winter, wood chips rather than diesel will warm buildings and water.
Hutter Construction of New Ipswich has been named general contractor for the project.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the project is planned for Thursday at 2 p.m.
To see more of The New Hampshire Union Leader, visit unionleader.com.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.