Univ of Maine Farmington Biomass Heating Facility Online

– by Ann Bryant, March 3, 2016, Franklin Sun Journal

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Photo: Ann Bryant/Sun Journal

After months of planning and construction, the biomass central heating plant at the University of Maine at Farmington is up and running.

The plant is fueled by Maine wood chips and started heating 23 campus buildings last month, Jeffrey McKay, director of Facilities Management, said. Those buildings make up about 95 percent of those on the campus.

A public ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for 2 p.m. Sunday, March 13, at Quebec and Perkins streets. Tours of the eco-friendly plant will be offered at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m.

It is the largest single biomass heating plant in Maine and is expected to replace 390,000 gallons of heating oil.

“Aligning with the university’s emphasis on sustainability, this dramatic reduction in fossil fuel is projected to reduce UMF’s carbon emissions by 4,000 tons a year,” according to a news release. “It also accounts for nearly 73 percent of the entire University of Maine System’s reduction in heating oil usage this year.”

The $11 million project was approved by University of Maine System Board of Trustees early in 2015. Energy savings are estimated to cover all costs and provide a payback in less than 10 years.

The Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet March 13 and 14 on the UMF campus and attend the formal opening.

The 5,885-square-foot plant required approvals from the community, the university and university system, UMF President Kathryn A. Foster said at the groundbreaking in May of 2015.

Crews dug trenches across campus and local streets over the summer to put in pipelines. The plant and campus conversion was developed by Trane U.S. Inc. who worked with Dirigo Architectural, LLC.

“UMF is a longtime leader in the responsible use of the Earth’s resources, and we are so excited about our energy use,” Foster said in the release.

While the University works to be carbon neutral by 2035, according to Luke Kellett, UMF sustainability coordinator, it has received national recognition as a leader in the state in its commitment to sustainability.

“In 2002, UMF adopted a Green Campus Vision Statement committing to the sustainable use of the Earth’s resources, building one of the first buildings in Maine to seek LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council,” the release said.

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