Delta High School set to fire up new biomass boiler

HIGH SCHOOL: Clean burner offsets 102,000 gallons of oil.

The Associated PressSeptember 11, 2011 

FAIRBANKS -- A second rural Alaska school will soon be heated by wood chip biomass.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported workers are completing installation of a wood chip biomass boiler at Delta High School in Delta Junction, about 100 miles south of Fairbanks.

The first wood chip biomass boiler was installed at Tok, another Alaska Highway community about 100 miles east of Delta Junction.

Delta's boiler, scheduled to go online Tuesday, will provide heat for the 77,000-square-foot high school and possibly other buildings.

"For this area, this project makes sense because we have lots of trees," said Kent Scifres, project manager in Delta.

The boiler, made by Messersmith Manufacturing in Michigan, will burn wood chips from slab wood provided by Lumber and Milling Associates of Dry Creek.

Trailers will dump chips into a storage area inside the building. Augers will move tons of chips onto a conveyor belt into the boiler.

The boiler has a 65-foot stack.

"You won't see any smoke go out it's so clean-burning," Scifres said.

The boiler heats water that will be piped through an existing system inside the school. The diesel fuel system will not kick on unless the boiler goes offline.

A $2 million grant from Alaska Energy Authority and $800,000 from the state paid for the boiler building.

The boiler is projected cut fuel expense to less than half.

The high school annually has burned about 102,000 gallons of heating oil, priced at around $4 per gallon, for an expense of more than $400,000. The school projects burning 2,000 tons of wood chips at a cost of $60 per ton, or about $180,000.

Tok burned a lot less than was projected, Scifres said.

"The potential cost savings is huge for us," said Delta Greely School District Superintendent Duncan Ware. "If we can eliminate fuel costs, that allows us to send more money to instruction."

The boiler will be an educational opportunity for students. Scifres said students in the career vocational program will have the opportunity to train in boiler operations. High school science classes will measure moisture content in wood chips.

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