Maine's Jackson Laboratory installs biomass energy plant

By Matt Soberg | August 30, 2011

The Jackson Laboratory, a genetics research facility in Bar Harbor, Maine, installed a new 4,000-square-foot biomass energy center that utilizes European technology to create power from wood powder. The $4.4 million project was financed by the laboratory with the help of a $1 million grant from the Efficiency Maine Trust, an organization created in 2009 to administer alternative energy programs.

The energy center is based on the “Powder Energy System” technology developed by the Swedish company Petrokraft. The system efficiently combusts wood powder and can be made compatible with existing oil-fired boilers.  

The powder technology consists of milling wood pellets, manufactured using sustainable forestry practices, into dust that is fired in a similar fashion to liquid fuel. The laboratory will store wood pellets on-site to be used as needed and converted into powder using a hammermill process. The system is expected to use about 11,000 tons of wood pellets per year.

The Petrokraft system is compatible with the laboratory’s newly installed Babcock & Wilcox 1,200 horsepower boiler. The boiler operates in parallel with the laboratory’s existing energy plant to create energy through various sources including biomass.   

The energy center will generate 2.2 million kilowatt hours of electricity at approximately 3 cents per kilowatt hour from wood powder. A total of 8 percent of the laboratory’s annual electricity needs will be generated by the biomass facility.

According to The Jackson Laboratory, the facility hopes to utilize the proven technology to combust sustainable resources in the most efficient way.  The system has enormous environmental and economic benefits including the displacement of 1.2 million gallons per year (a 75 percent reduction) of fuel oil and projected fuel savings in excess of $2 million per year.  

The Jackson Laboratory is committed to environmentally sustainable practices and to reducing fossil fuel usage. In addition to the powder-to-energy facility, the laboratory has specifically designed its buildings to be highly energy efficient and to comply with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED standards. The laboratory previously received the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership award for leading energy conservation in the New England region. 

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent and nonprofit genetics research organization with a mission to discover a genetic basis for preventing, treating and curing human disease.