February 19, 2013

Wood boiler cuts school costs


---- — RAY BROOK — Saranac Lake Central School continues to show savings from a new heating system installed last year.

Business Manager Dan Bower gave an update to Adirondack Park Agency commissioners recently on the wood boiler installed at Petrova School.

He delivered financial details alongside Dave Dungate, president of Advanced Climate Technologies Bioenergy of Schenectady, who installed the equipment, and school Facilities Manager Lee Daunais.


Bower said actual installation costs came close to $513,000. 

But the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority provided a $410,000 grant to offset that cost, with $102,000 match required.

State education building aid supplied half of the match, leaving $46,000 for taxpayers to fund in the end.


The boiler is already starting to pay off.

Bower compared heating costs for the month of December this year to last.

In 2011, they burned 8,002 gallons of fuel, which cost about $25,000. But this past year, the school burned 1,500 gallons of fuel at a cost of about $5,000 plus $6,400 in wood pellets — saving more than $13,000 in December alone.

The school buys pellets in bulk from a biomass distributor in Massena, Bower said.

Daunais declared he is just the “nuts and bolts” guy, but provided commissioners with details of the day-to-day operation.

The 132,000-square-foot, three-story school with an add-on gymnasium maintains the oil boiler online as a backup, he said.


The only issue with heating with wood came with the warm-up period in the morning.

The school’s heating system runs at two temperatures: one when students are present, and the other when the building is empty.

“What we found out is when I got there at 6:30 (a.m.) and the temperature is down, the whole load (on the heating system) is opening up at the same time. Through energy management, we’ve programmed the system to bring it on in steps,” Daunais said.

The school is looking to purchase a storage tank to maintain a ready store of heated water for the system.

“When we heat that water at night, it would be there in the morning,” Daunais said.


Dungate, the biomass heating specialist who installed the system in Saranac Lake and also the wood boiler at the Wild Center, said he came to the region to build a biomass energy business because of resources in the Adirondack Park.

One ton of wood fuel replaces 115 gallons of heating oil, Dungate told APA commissioners.

“In the Adirondacks, there are about a million tons of wood residues that aren’t recovered. That is enough to heat 3,000 to 4,000 schools.”

And, he said, wood-heating prices are much more stable and half the cost of oil.

The presentation was organized by APA’s Economic Affairs Committee and its chairman, Arthur Lussi.

APA Chairwoman Leilani Ulrich said APA staff would like to visit to the school to see the boiler system in operation.

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