Project began in August 2012
On Thursday, April 7, Andrew Haden, president of the biomass energy company Wisewood, gave an update on the project to provide heat to Slater Elementary School, the Harney County Courthouse, and Symmetry Care.
Haden said the out-dated boiler at Slater was removed, trenches were dug, and the pipes for the new system were laid in the trenches last August.
Lori Cheek, chair of the Harney County School District No. 3 school board, said the project began in August 2012 when the school board was looking into using wood pellets for heating and got in contact with Wisewood. Other entities were then approached about using the same system, and the possibility of using hog fuel, rather than pellets, entered into the conversation.
Hog fuel is wood residue and waste product that is processed through a chipper and produces coarse chips and clumps normally used for fuel. Hog fuel may include twisted logs, yard debris, and forest slash.
Haden said he was unable to find a boiler in the U.S. that would work with hog fuel, but he was able to locate one in Europe. He said the boiler is a clean system, and can burn fuel containing up to 55 percent moisture.
Wisewood and the interested parties continued to work on the project, and Cheek said when the concept of forming a co-op came up, everything came together.
The heating system will primarily run off the hog fuel, with assistance from propane. Haden said each classroom at Slater will have its own temperature control, and the system is engineered to last 30 to 50 years.
The next step in the project is to lay the pipe from the boiler to the courthouse, and then to Symmetry Care. There has also been interest in adding the Lincoln building and a couple of churches to the system, so while the pipe is being installed, modifications will be made so that those buildings can be easily hooked into the system at a later date.
Haden said there is a chance of creating a heating district, which would entail a loop through the downtown area, and also include the hospital. If more entities are added, the system would be monitored, and modifications made to adjust to increase the capacity of energy in the system.
The system will provide a significant amount of savings to heat the buildings. Haden stated the wood fuel system can provide the same amount of energy for $15,000 as $200,000 would for oil.
He said, once the system is up and operating, it will be under the local co-op’s control to set rates and procure the fuel source each year.
Haden added that 1,000 tons of fuel has already been purchased from Silvies Valley Ranch, and that should last for two years. After that, it will be a matter of finding a fuel source each year.
Cheek said the involved parties would like to use local businesses to provide the fuel, even if the cost is a little higher. That would create jobs and allow the community to be more self-sufficient.
The boiler is being shipped to Harney County, and plans are to have it installed by the end of June or early July, and the entire project ready to go by August.