Orono company converts former air force base facility to biomass

Posted Oct. 04, 2013, at 6:24 p.m.

LIMESTONE, Maine — Officials at the former Loring Air Force Base are hoping that a biomass conversion at one building at the facility will lead to significant savings and reduce the base’s carbon footprint.

Orono-based Pelletco converted the Non-Commissioned Officer’s club, known as Club 42, from oil to biomass by installing a HeatPod in the building, which is connected directly to the club’s existing heat distribution system. Pelletco provides heat to the facility, operates the unit and bills only for the heat used. There is no upfront or capital cost to Loring or the tenants for the transition from fossil fuels to biomass.

Since the base’s closure in 1994, the old officer’s club has hosted weddings, conferences, retreats and other special events.

“The cost of heat is a major cost component for our operations and for Loring’s businesses, which are seeking an opportunity to be profitable and grow,” Carl Flora, president and chief executive officer of the Loring Development Authority, said Friday. “We had it installed in the summer. The major factor that had us turn to biomass was because of the high cost of fuel.”

Flora said the system is projected to save the facility significant money over the next 10 years. Those savings, according to Flora, will enable the Loring Development Authority to create financial incentives for new and expanding businesses that may be considering a Loring location.

He added that if the conversion is successful in creating savings, the LDA will consider bringing biomass to other buildings on the base.

Jim Knight, Pelletco’s chief executive officer, said Friday that crews spent eight weeks in Aroostook County completing the conversion at Loring. He felt that biomass was a perfect fit for the base, would bring significant savings and reduce environmental impact.

“The base will be very happy with its investment,” he said. “I think we are seeing more and more businesses across the state going green and reaping the benefits.”

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