Wood Pellet Boiler a Success

Wood Pellet Boiler a Success

Clean burning renewable energy results in carbon neutral heat, hot water Davis Student Residence Village and Deering Common

College of the Atlantic has just fired up its wood pellet boiler – the first of its kind in the United States. The system is one further step in COA’s commitment to carbon neutrality and renewable fuels. The boiler provides all the heat and hot water for three new student residences and a converted summer cottage that is now the campus center. The fuel source is renewable wood pellets, resulting in absolute carbon neutrality for the heating of one-fifth of COA’s campus.

This is not your ordinary wood-burning stove with billows of smoke emerging from a chimney. It’s a KOB wood pellet boiler built by Veissmann of Austria. Thanks to a highly sensitive computer system and more than a dozen sensors and motors that continually monitor temperatures along with the level of oxygen and pellets in the mix, the emissions from COA’s new boiler can be kept at a bare minimum. And while skeptics might point to a bit of white smoky-looking stuff escaping from the building on the coldest of winter days – it’s not smoke, it’s steam.

Says Burkhard Fink, who installed the half-million BTU boiler, “The combustion technology is very advanced, the fuel/air mixture is the perfect mixture. There’s constant monitoring, so it is high efficiency and clean burning.”

In Europe where the technology evolved, notes Fink, such clean-burning systems are required by law. “The quality of emissions can compare to the cleanest of gas boilers,” he says. And yet, it uses renewable fuel – compressed sawdust pellets – a byproduct of an Aroostook County sawmill.

The boiler is one element of a super-sustainable complex of student housing completed on COA’s campus last summer, the college’s first major building project since it became carbon neutral in 2007 and pledged to move to total reliance on renewable energy sources by 2015. Among other environmental amenities, the Kathryn W. Davis Student Residence Village features a foot of cellulose insulation created from shredded newspapers, the use of gray water from showers to preheat hot water, an energy recovery central ventilation unit preheating fresh air in the buildings and composting toilets.

Other elements of the new construction, along with the transformation of the Sea Urchins summer cottage into Deering Common, the new campus center, are standard at COA, where all electricity comes from renewable hydropower. All floors have recycling containers, all kitchens have composting bins, green cleaning supplies are favored and lighting comes from light-emitting diodes where possible, with compact fluorescent bulbs elsewhere. Appliances are energy-efficient, paints are non-toxic and furniture is made of sustainably harvested regional wood, chosen for eco-friendly fabrics cleanable with water.

College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. A leader in environmental stewardship and experiential education, COA has pioneered a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to learning – human ecology – that develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers who can lead all sectors of society to promote sustainable ecosystems while meeting compelling and growing human needs.