SALEM – Gov. John Baldacci had nothing but praise for Mt. Abram High School’s newly installed wood pellet boiler and the people behind the project.
Superintendent Quenten Clark, the MSAD 58 School Board and the three men who installed the boiler – Mel Bouboulis, Dan Worcester and Tim Sorrel – gave the Governor and Pat McGowen, commissioner of the Department of Conservation, a look at the newly installed wood boiler that is heating the school full time now.
The $192,000 wood pellet boiler was installed by the three men, with the entire project completed over the course of a six-month period. All three also work as the school district’s custodians, bus driver and all around fix-it guys. A small building to house the wood boiler sits next to the high school. A pipe for the re-heated water runs from the boiler room underground and into the school, providing radiant heat. A second pipe returns the cooled water from the school and back to the boiler. Next to the boiler room a large silo has been built to house the supply of wood pellets.
Clark pointed to a pair of gauges reading nearly identical 180-degree temperatures of water going out and, on this milder-than-average winter day, coming back.
All this, said Clark, will save the district both money and provide a much cleaner-burning system to boot. Normally, 40,000 gallons of heating oil is needed. Now, 300 tons of wood pellets at $180 per ton will heat the school. Approximately, $1.60 per gallon worth of heating oil is equal to the current pellet price.
At current oil and wood pellet prices, it will take eight years of savings to pay off the system. Last summer, when the price of heating oil soared to $4 a gallon, the whole system would have been paid for in a year an half. No one expects oil prices to remain where they are now.
In addition, Clark said when the Geneva Energy wood pellet mill is up and running in the former Forster Manufacturing, Inc. plant in Strong this spring, wood pellets will be purchased locally and will only need to travel eight miles to its delivery in Salem. The purchase will support the local mill and its employees, in addition to cutting out the hundreds or thousands of miles needed now to get the pellets from Athens, Maine and Canada.
“By keeping things local, we’ve shortened our supply chain,” Clark said. “We’re pretty happy with it.”
“You’re a head of the curve,” Gov. Baldacci told Clark. “it really shows what ingenuity can do. It’s a wonderful project,” he added.
Clark said he credited the MSAD 58 School Board members with their willingness to try something a little different.
Dan Worcester explained how he and his crew put the whole boiler system together, adding he could build the boiler himself.
“There’s not much to it really. I could build it,” Worcester told Gov. Baldacci. The Governor said he should look into Maine Technology Institute’s seed grant program which can provide up to $12,500 for new product research and development programs.
“You’ll have to fill out some paperwork to get it,” Gov. Baldacci said.
“I don’t mind a little paperwork,” Worcester said.