Pennsylvania school district opts for CHP system

By Matt Soberg | October 11, 2011

Making the connection between the local supply of woody biomass and the need for future energy cost reduction, a school district near Meadville, Pa., agreed to commission a thermally led combined heat and power (CHP) project, called the Biomass Combined Heat and Power District Energy System, planned to be operational at the end of October. 

The project is a cooperative venture by the Crawford Central School District, Crawford County Career & Technical Center (CC-CTC) and the Meadville Recreation Complex (MARC). Engineering and management services were provided by Wilson Engineering Services, also headquartered in Meadville. 

The project will be powered by locally derived wood chips through a contract calling for approximately 2,700 tons at $32 per ton. The supply comes from local Amish saw mills including cut ends and other wood residues. The supplier grinds the feedstock into chips less than 3 inches in size and delivers product to the school district site. At one time, the storage system holds 300 cubic yards of wood chip fuel.

“The system will annually replace 80 percent of natural gas purchases and 15 percent of electric purchases with renewable biomass energy,” according to WES. “Purchased energy costs will be reduced by approximately $200,000 annually.”

The heat recovery system will capture 1.5 million Btu per hour of heat with 6,000 gallons of thermal storage.  Each of the three facilities will have separate CHP controls for energy regulation and will be separately billed for their usage, encouraging energy conservation. The thermal storage will replace 27,000 Ncf of natural gas annually, according to WES. 

The total project cost has reached more than $3.5 million with nearly $1 million in government funds from various biomass-related grants. The boiler will produce 510,000 kilowatt hours of electricity while reducing 1,575 metric tons of net carbon dioxide annually.