Wood pellet boiler research to commence at SUNY

By Chris Hanson | March 07, 2014

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority awarded the State University of New York Canton a $163,000 to research the efficiency of automatic-feeding wood pellet boilers.

The project will take place at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Office in St. Lawrence County, which is located on  northern New York farmstead. The farmstead consists of two houses and a barn that has been converted to facilitate two classrooms. There, SUNY Canton will install three 100,000 Btu/hr pellet boilers there to heat both farmhouses and classrooms.

“After we commission these boilers, Dr. Hurlbut and I are basically going to turn the boilers over to the Cooperative Extension for their ownership and we’ll just be collecting data on them for two years,” said Michael Newton, interim dean of the Canino School of Engineering Technology. The partnership has the potential to save the extension office, a nonprofit organization, a considerable amount of money, he added.

Bulk pellets will be manufactured and transported by Curran Renewable Energy in Massena, N.Y. Once on site, three to four tons of bulk pellets will be stored in a storage buildings outside of the houses and barn. One farmhouse will have a bulk storage shed with a V-shaped hopper to help funnel the pellets into a vacuum for transport into the house. The other will utilize a side building that will contain both the hopper and boiler, whereas the barn will use a nearby grain silo that will be modified for pellet storage. External storage was preferred to address carbon monoxide concerns that may arise during delivery.

The first unit, a Kedel boiler, will be installed the week of March 10 at the first farmhouse. U.S.-manufacturer Evowordel was selected as provider of the second boiler since it is located within the state and is one of the only boilers with an automatic feeding process from the bulk storage facility. The third boiler choice has been narrowed down to two brands, BioWin and Froling, Newton said.

One of the challenges of the study could lie in the classrooms, according to Newton. “The current classroom configuration has 139,000 BTU per hour of energy loss,” he said. “We would almost have to buy two boilers and stage them in order to handle the peak load of that building. We are trying to figure out what we can do to get that tightened up with their limited resources so we don’t have to spend a lot of money on extra boilers to do things.”

Collected data will be shown live on the internet not only to monitor the equipment, but also to demonstrate the efficiency of the boilers to the public. “There are currently three separate boiler systems in there, and we are going to be able to compare what last year’s fuel source for oil was versus what we are doing with pellets,” Newton said. “It’ll be a nice project when it’s all done in a couple years.”