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boilers in schools

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by sgcsalsero, Feb 7, 2008.

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  1. sgcsalsero

    sgcsalsero Feeling the Heat

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    This forum has been great, I'd never heard of a gassifier three months ago. General question on commercial usage, do you think most school districts (say in Zone 5 or colder) at some point entertain the idea of using a gassifier, especially if they could get the fuel donated. Or is the market more industrial/agricultural in nature (machine shops, farmers).

    I'm interested in reading any posts, links that delve more into, Thanks

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  2. BrownianHeatingTech

    BrownianHeatingTech Minister of Fire

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    I know of several school districts in Maine that are installing pellet boilers. Pellets are a little easier to handle, on that scale (using a 10-ton silo and a feed auger) rather than dealing with cordwood.

    Still, I expect we will see more use of biomass boilers in these applications, as well as moderately-large apartment complexes, which can utilize district heating from a central "heating plant."

    Joe
  3. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    These types of orgs could probably get solid contracts from local mills - a good idea before making the taxpayers install a pellet burner.

    My elementary school (in Philly) used a coal boiler - about 1960.
  4. chrisfallis

    chrisfallis Member

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    Last year a Garn dealer in New Mexico had the same basic idea. He saw that in rural New Mexico there were schools heating with propane at great expense. One of the cottage industries in these rural towns was firewood cutting. A wood burning bolier would keep a few extra locals employed and would lower the cost of heat to the school. Naturally there is a lot of labor cost in the handling of a fuel for a cordwood boiler. It is not like getting a trailer full of pellets dumped into a silo that automatically feeds a boiler. On the other hand, a Garn or two, even at $15-$20K a whack beats the capital cost of a fully automated pellet boiler.
  5. sgcsalsero

    sgcsalsero Feeling the Heat

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    Amazingly enough in the past year, I have talked to both a local landfill and also a nursery who say they make thousands of dollars per year off of dumped wood like chips, brush, logs, etc. I'm assuming the nursery does resell some of it (turns into mulch), but using a landfill just seems like a lose-lose situation.
  6. chrisfallis

    chrisfallis Member

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    There is a place in town that accepts green waste for recycling. They have massive piles of constuction waste, pallects, brush, tree trimmings and tree limbs that they grind into mulch. People drop off perfetly good firewood there and pay the tipping fees. Incredible. I have thought that I could sit up the road a bit with a sign that asks people to let me take the firewood. I think I could get a few cords of uncut wood each Saturday.
  7. deerhuntrer

    deerhuntrer New Member

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    MSAD 58 in Kingfield, Maine has a wood pellet furnace in its maintenance garage. It was a pilot program to see if they could install the same idea into Mt. Abram HS across the street from the garage. Ill attach the website and you cam email the superintendent (his idea) to see how the progress is coming. The boiler for the HS is near its life end and he is seeking to install a wood pellet boiler to keep costs down.
    http://www.sad58.k12.me.us/
  8. Bob Rohr

    Bob Rohr Minister of Fire

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    I've read of a few schools in Montana that burn byproducts, chips and sawdust from the logging and lumber industry. Some of the kilns in Missoula burn chips.

    I lived in NW Montana for a bit and can remember those large chip trucks flying down the roads from Whitefish to Missoula. The entire truck pulled onto a ramp that elevated to empty the semi trailer at the boiler location.

    One of the coal powerplants in Missouri was trying to burn corn cabs and discharge from combines last year. I suspect we will hear more and more about commercial uses like this.

    Viessmann hade a huge biomass boiler in the parking lot at the ISH show. About the size of a semi trailer. It burned all sorts of shavings, chips, biomass pellets, etc.

    hr
  9. granpajohn

    granpajohn Minister of Fire

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    Not sure this is what you're looking for, (but you did say you'd be interested in any reply).
    My company has been working on a sawdust burning boiler for district heating; (ie central steam plant) at a college in VA, and I think it's our second or third such operation. The tricky parts:
    - Although the sawdust is free from the mills, summer storage is harder than one would think. As ya'll know, it can lead to spontaneous combustion in silos or other containers. In fact, the term "hazmat' has popped up.
    - The suppliers really want a customer who will take the sawdust all year as a steady diet.
    - The system runs on No.2 or No.6 fuel oil for start up, then switches over to sawdust. The operator can tweek it; that's the fun part.
    - Like all solid fuels, it's more work to handle than oil or NG. Many plants these days are multi-fuel. Interuptable for NG.
    - This school is in the rural part of the state (er, commonwealth), and I don't think this plant could be run in a NOx zone such as WashDC, etc.

    This whole idea is tempting, but I gotta admit, this project has really dragged onward. However, in the meantime, they ARE burning sawdust in their special boiler; just not as much as could be with the expansion of the operation.
    I will look around and see if I can find/remember the boiler manufacturer.
  10. sgcsalsero

    sgcsalsero Feeling the Heat

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    Maybe just grease the guys at the recycling site for a well timed call on some good dumped hardwood
  11. BrownianHeatingTech

    BrownianHeatingTech Minister of Fire

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    The problem with cordwood is that it is "operator dependent," not in terms of labor, but in terms of risk. Insurance companies tend to be leery of the risk of over-firing.

    Pellets are more "fool proof," since the actual feeding is done by the machine, automatically.

    Not that cordwood can't be done for these systems. I'm still much in favor of cordwood, but the institutions are often unwilling to touch biomass unless it is "standardized" and machine-fed. If it's a choice between pellets or oil, I'm in favor of pellets.

    I'm expecting that when we get some more-advanced wood boilers on the market, the gap will narrow down. Better automation and safety controls on the boiler will make it easier for the institutions (and their insurance companies) to accept cordwood.

    Joe
  12. sgcsalsero

    sgcsalsero Feeling the Heat

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    I worked for a P&C;carrier for two years, so I know first hand how underwriters think living in their strict, insulated, bubble-like world. I looked at one standardized solid fuel questionnaire (from ACORD) and it made me chuckle. Anyone thinking of such a move should request an onsite visit from the carrier's risk control specialist, agent, and underwriter to give them a walkthru of safety features. I guess the availability and pricing of pellets would likely be a bottleneck then. Even if a school were to convince the 'Board' to purchase a pellet boiler the break even analysis would have to be pretty rosy (less than 10 years payback, getting the pellets for next to nothing, not getting a significant rate hike on property insurance). Private schools who have more ability to make decisions (without the bureaucracy of the state) would seem to be more likely. Wow, I guess I am pretty opinionated today.
  13. BrownianHeatingTech

    BrownianHeatingTech Minister of Fire

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    Indeed. If the insurance can be set up without major issues, the quicker payback of wood would definitely make it attractive to them.

    Joe
  14. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I wouldn't count on that. Sawmills are really hurting these days and one of the few remaining strong markets is residue like chips and sawdust. They're not going to give it away or sell it for less than market price, which as the number of mills continues to diminish, continues to increase.

    The schools I'm familiar with burning wood tend to go with semi-automated systems like those burning chips. You have to remember that the guy currently tending the boiler is not going to be thrilled at the prospect of tossing roundwood into a firebox or handling rough biomass. And the purchasing department has to shift into a whole new area of expertise in a very competitive market. So there are also logistical and labor issues to consider, and what works for one district might not for another.
  15. leaddog

    leaddog Minister of Fire

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    http://www.stiltman.com/html/doe_report_part_ii.html I just put this in the thread of articles. It is very informative and tells how there is bio-mass being used all over the US and about the potential. also go to the home page and there is links to his boilers
    leaddog
  16. sgcsalsero

    sgcsalsero Feeling the Heat

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    Good points Eric, a little perspective on people who tend boilers. My uncle was the chief mechanic for Haddon-Craftsmen, a book binder and distributor in Scranton, PA. Part of his responsibility was to make sure ALL boilers for a couple different locations were in tip top condition. Any down time was easily thousands of dollars per hour of lost productivity and profit. He is the consumate tinkerer, and was proud to show off the boilers to anyone interested (incl. his at the time disinterested 16 year old nephew). Also, incredibly enough he hand built his own splitter, and hand built his own wood stove.

    So . .given the chance . . I'd think he jump at the opportunity to install a fire breathin wood pellet/chip boiler (and you can bet that it would be totally automated even if he had to fabricate an auger himself).
  17. Bob Rohr

    Bob Rohr Minister of Fire

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    Both my customer and I have been very pleased with this Verner pellet boiler I installed. Aquatherm imported a few.

    I installed it with a 20 gallon buffer and a Caleffi mixing station for the radiant that it supplies. It has a nice glow plug ignition. A fire suppresion system, reset control and a great shaker grate to keep the ash cleared.

    And there is plenty of pellet raw mateial and pellet presses around here.

    I'm a big thumbs up for pellet and biomass. I truly believe they burn cleaner and more consistent then the wood fired boilers, and it uses materials generally bound for landfills.

    There was an excellent article on world wide pellet markets and prices in the 2/2007 issue of Sun and Wind Energy. You may be able to find it archived a www.sunwindenergy.com A great International publication, by the way.

    The Swedes are the number 1 consumer of pellets and interestingly Canada is the #2 producer, almost exclusively for export, over 1 million tons in 2006.

    The biomass products include grape stalks from France, almond stones, olive stones and stone pine cones from Spain and Italy ansd sugar cane fibers from Brazil.

    The Japanese use pellet stoves under their low dining tables fueled by bark pellets.

    An interesting fuel we will be hearing more about soon.

    hr

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  18. granpajohn

    granpajohn Minister of Fire

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    Here's a little more info on the larger school, central steam plant type boiler. This is a pretty good link of the Hurst system they're using. http://www.hurstboiler.com/solid_fuel_fired.htm
    They're out of Coolidge, Georgia, last I knew.
  19. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    Several local high schools (South Burlington, Hinesburg, and Bristol) have installed wood boilers. All burn chips. Several businesses have installed or will soon install similar systems. Drives up the demand for high-quality (low dust / uniform) chips.
  20. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    That's a good point, nofossil. Those are the same chips everyone else wants--from paper mills to pellet plants, to other schools with similar setups.
  21. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    Actually, not quite. I've talked to a supplier who provides chips to a paper mill (in your state) as well as our wood-fired power plant. The bigger plants can tolerate dust and sticks that the smaller school-sized plants can't. Takes a cleaner, more uniform, and more expensive chip for the smaller boilers.

    As I understand it, sticks jam the augers, and dust creates a fire hazard.
  22. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    We're talking about different chips for different applications. Pulpmills may burn whole tree ("dirty") chips in their boilers, but they need the clean, uniform chips for cooking into pulp. Different products. Burlington Electric buys the latter, while the I-P mill in Ticonderoga buys both kinds, and they pay a lot more for the clean chips, most of which originate in sawmills. That's what the schools are competing with for their chips.

    Sorry for any confusion.
  23. ISeeDeadBTUs

    ISeeDeadBTUs Guest

    Ahh . . but you have to understand New York to realize this is not going to happen on any scale.

    Budgets must go up at least twice the rate of inflation. When anyone questions it, we'll blame it on 'state mandates'. And the Teachers Union has negotiated their pay and benefit raises. And they can't control fuel cost. What?!? You want to introduce something new? It's all about the kids. So you have to take out a home equity loan to pay . . . it's for the kids afterall! Instead of sitting the kids down and explaining to them about economics, we'll tell them that their parents and neighbors must be emotionally arm-twisted into voting for budget increases. Get them out on the street with signs!!

    These kids can't be subjected to some sort of alternative heating system. It's about the kids!!

    :sick:
  24. sgcsalsero

    sgcsalsero Feeling the Heat

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    NoFo, I would like to see that demand go up, to my earlier point there a lot of companies paying to dump this kind of stuff at nurseries and !!!landfills. I think its only a matter of time before they realize the needless expense on their income statement, and dare I say make a modest profit off of it by selling to mills, pellet manu., schools & commercial co.s with boilers, etc.

    Check this link out http://www.asplundh.net/woodchip.htm.
  25. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Sometimes the practical realities become obscured by things that seem, on the surface, to make sense. I think wood residue a case in point.

    Pellet plants and small-scale chip burners require consistent supplies and large amounts of fairly specialized and processed raw material to function properly and maintain production. You're not going to get that from municipal waste streams.

    Realistically, the only two markets for processed municipal waste would be biomass power plants and mulch operations. But to create a product like that from municipal wood waste, you need an investment in equipment of more than $1 million. And to justify an investment like that, you'd need strong, consistent local markets and enough volume to cover the production costs. That's a pretty rare combination. That's why you see so much wood residue heading for landfills. It's cheaper to waste it than use it.
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