PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Officials at Northern Maine Community College gathered Wednesday morning to commission a new biomass wood boiler that will heat a significant portion of the campus while cutting down on its energy bill.
State, local and economic development officials attended a short ceremony dedicated to the $1 million boiler, which NMCC officials said was the first of its kind for the state’s entire community college system.
The newly installed machine will provide heat to the two largest buildings on campus while replacing nearly 70 percent of the college’s fuel oil consumption with local, renewable energy.
Campus officials believe it will save more than $43,000 in utility costs annually, and replace an estimated 47,000 gallons of fuel oil with local pellets.
Tim Crowley, NMCC president, was pleased to see the new boiler begin work. He attributed the success of the project to the collaboration and generosity of state and federal agencies and private and local entities.
“After 10 months of construction and installation, we will soon begin to benefit from significant energy cost savings, a new hands-on learning opportunity for our students, an economic boost for the region, and a reduction in carbon emissions,” Crowley said Wednesday.
The college broke ground on the 900-kilowatt unit last November. It is replacing a more than 30-year-old boiler in the Mailman Trades Building, which houses classroom and lab space for many of the college’s trade and technology programs. A pellet silo has been installed on a concrete pad just outside the boiler room. The project connects the trades building with underground piping to the Christie Complex, NMCC’s largest building, where most of the classrooms and campus offices are located.
The new unit is the latest addition to a campus that had focused intently on alternative energy. A a 10-kilowatt residential wind turbine sits on the site of NMCC’s Northern Maine Center for Excellence in Alternative Energy Training and Education. The turbine is an educational tool for students in the wind power technology program, which teaches them to operate, maintain and repair wind turbine generators.
The college also has added a course in advanced electronic systems that coincided with the purchase of a pre-owned Toyota Prius. The course and car will be used by students in the transportation trades program to help them better prepare for their future careers.
The boiler project was made possible, in part, through a $500,000 federal grant administered by the Maine Forest Service.
More than $3 million has been invested over the past few years to make the campus more energy-efficient. Projects have included lighting and building upgrades, mechanical renovations and insulation and building controls installation.