UMF completes biomass heating project

By Anna Simet | March 18, 2016

Less than one year after construction began, the University of Maine at Farmington’s $11 million biomass district heating project is complete. The plant is officially online and has been sending heat to 23 buildings, or 95 percent of the campus, for about a month.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held March 13, during which the public was allowed to tour the facility, the largest single biomass heating plant in the state. The plant’s 500-horsepower, Messersmith Manufacturing biomass boiler is fired with locally-sourced wood chips and is expected to reduce the University of Maine system’s heating oil usage by nearly 73 percent, about 390,000 gallons annually. It replaced about 40 aged individual heating plants throughout the campus.

The project was developed by Trane U.S. Inc., which worked closely with Dirigo Architectural LLC, according to UMF.

Besides heat, UMF is using the plant as a learning facility where students can actively engage in understanding biomass energy, associated systems and processes, and will be embedded in several courses as a mandatory learning facet of several curricula and fields of study. The university will open the plant control room to students and visitors to view the internal operations as well as several exterior viewing areas.

A payback on the project is expected in less than 10 years.