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Wood pellet boiler to replace oil heater in Chester Town Hall

Wood pellet boiler to replace oil heater in Chester Town Hall

Officials to keep detailed records in test project

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CHESTER  When the town makes the switch from oil to wood pellets to heat the Town Hall building, it’ll have to keep stringent records on how the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority demonstration is working with monthly reports.

The custom-made steam boiler that will allow the town to shift from oil to predominantly wood pellets to heat the Municipal Complex on Route 9 may arrive next month.

“We don’t have an exact delivery date, but I know it’s being fabricated and put together because they called and asked us about the electrical service. I’m guessing probably mid-November (for a delivery date),” said Rick Handley, consultant on the project.

Biomass Commodities Corp. of Massachusetts is constructing the wood pellet boiler, which is part of a statewide demonstration project.

The price of the overall demonstration project, a biomass steam accumulator that includes a storage process for storing steam to improve efficiency, was estimated at $400,000 to $450,000, with 75 percent (up to $300,000) funded by NYSERDA.

NYSERDA draws its funding from a “system benefits charge” utility customers pay, which was established in 1996.

The town will also use $20,000 from a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant and hopes to use funding from the sale of timber toward the project. The Town Board authorized a call for bids on the timber for sale last week as well.

Wood pellet heating systems are generally used to heat, store and circulate water. A steam system is pressurized and requires unique integration, controls and thermal storage to maximize efficiency. NYSERDA wanting to use it as a demonstration project increased the cost, requiring certain features. The project also led to state legislation that officials say will make it easier for municipalities to bond for such projects, meaning more Adirondack towns may opt to heat their buildings with wood. The legislation specifically amends Local Finance Law to say that the probable usefulness of the installation or reconstruction of a heating system in a municipal building is 15 years instead of 10 years.

Last week, the Town Board passed a resolution authorizing the town to go out to bid for an installation contractor, as well as purchase of a pellet storage silo.

Before that can be advertised, a state architect still needs to sign off on specifications of what the installation contractor will do when equipment gets installed. If they don’t have the specifications in place 15 days before Nov. 10, the date of bid opening, they’ll have to reissue the bid, Supervisor Fred Monroe said.

“They have very strict requirements, and it’s not easy to meet all of their requirements,” Monroe said.

According to the contract the Town Board approved, “they’re requiring the town to do certain things you probably wouldn’t do just on a biomass project,” Handley said.

Handley also recommended that the Town Board authorize signing a contract on the project, which the board did unanimously.

Monroe said officials have to monitor fuel oil use, wood pellet use and the efficiency of the boiler with the steam accumulator. Handley said officials will have to send monthly progress reports back to NYSERDA and will probably host tours of people wanting to look at the system.

He said work also needs to be done in the boiler room to control moisture, in the form of a new sump pump and other general upgrades. There was concern there was no documentation of asbestos remediation in the boiler room, but an analysis verified it had been taken care of in the late 1980s.

Monroe said officials expect switching to wood pellets will be about $18,000 cheaper than oil annually.

Follow Amanda May Metzger on Twitter @AmandaWhistle and read her blog at


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