Former National Guard Armory becomes $4 million biomass project

By Chris Hanson | June 20, 2013

The University of Maine at Fort Kent and the Maine School Administrative District No. 27 broke ground on a $4 million biomass heating project on the site of the former Fort Kent Armory.

Largely funded by the USDA, the project will feature two, multifuel boilers and consume 1,000 tons of wood pellets per year.  Terence Kelly, director of university relations, said the dual boiler system will provide the campus with greater heating flexibility. He explained each boiler will provide 50 percent of the needed heat, but is also capable of taking over if the other unit goes offline. Kelly added the next stage of the project is to select a boiler manufacturer for the facility.  

Most of the fuel will come within a 20 mile radius of the campus from various providers. Kelly said some may even come from greater distances. Wilson Hess, president of UMFK, said the project, “will serve as a working environmental education example of local renewable fuel replacing imported nonrenewable oil, dramatically reducing the university’s annual energy costs and carbon footprint.”

Once completed, the project will generate heat and hot water for 12 buildings located on the UMFK and Fort Kent Community High School campuses, with potential for two more locations inside the school district. Additionally, the project is expected to save both the college and school district more than $4 million in energy costs throughout the next decade.

This project is the second, biomass development for the UMFK campus. In May 2012, the university brought online a $500,000 wood-to-energy system that provides heat for its largest resident hall and athletic complex.