UMF breaks ground on biomass heating plant

By University of Maine at Farmington | May 29, 2015

The University of Maine at Farmington broke ground on a new, eco-friendly 5,885-square-foot biomass central heating plant at 9 a.m. May 26 at the University parking lot near the intersection of Perkins and Quebec streets. The event was free and open to the public.

Biomass is an innovative, renewable, locally-sourced fuel obtained from plant-based materials, typically woodchips in Maine. Aligning with the University’s emphasis on environmental stewardship, the plant is expected to replace 390,000 gallons of heating oil now used to heat the buildings through individual systems and is projected to reduce the university’s carbon emissions by 3,000 tons a year.

“We are very excited about UMF’s energy future that will soon include this new, sustainable, local fuel source,” said Kathryn A. Foster, UMF president.  “UMF is a longtime leader in the responsible use of the Earth’s resources. Adding biomass to our existing geothermal commitment further diversifies our energy portfolio and greatly reduces our reliance upon fossil fuels.”

In addition to providing heat to the campus, the new biomass plant will also be a valuable learning facility. It will actively engage students 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 plant control room will be open to students and visitors to view the internal operations as well as several exterior viewing areas.

The $11 million project was approved by the University of Maine System Board of Trustees early in 2015. Energy savings are estimated to cover all costs and provide a payback in less than 10 years.

The central energy plant and campus conversion project was developed by Trane U.S. Inc, working closely with the UMF facilities department and administration. Trane was supported by Apex Engineering of Falmouth Maine and by CES, Inc. of Brewer Maine in the development of this complex project. The wood biomass plant will be the sixth major biomass conversion project delivered by Trane in the last several years and is the first design-build project they are delivering for the University of Maine System.

The design-build process ensures that the same team who was involved in the engineering design is responsible for construction, commissioning and ensuring the system operational performance after completion.  To deliver the project, Trane has selected a team of qualified local Maine contractors who will be working with their skilled technicians and construction management staff on the project.