Is biomass in the future for your school or community? Don Wichert with Wisconsin's Focus on Energy program says they've hired the Biomass Energy Resource Center of Vermont, and will offer a new set of incentives for schools and communities to heat with biomass, through Focus on Energy's already existing Schools and Communities program. “It's a combination of putting all these things together to sort of kick start the program, and to get ten schools or community programs up or running by this time next year,” says Wichert.
Is biomass — in the form of wood waste chips from the forest products industry, or pelletized agricultural waste, actually a viable alternate to utility generated power? The answer appears to be yes, as a number of school districts in northern Wisconsin are already heating with biomass. Dave Disera is Director of Buildings and Grounds for Sawyer County's Hayward Community Schools , where the high school and middle school are heated with wood waste from Johnson Timber , a local forest products company. “Are savings would probably be thirty to forty percent over natural gas,” says Disera. “That really helps our bottom line. It's been a very good system for us. They are a little more labor intensive, but once you get them worked out, they run like champ.”
Focus on Energy's Wichert says schools and communities throughout the state could potentially heat with biomass, using either wood waste or pelletized agricultural waste. “We're pretty much talking about the entire state, outside of urban areas,” says Wichert. Schools and communities which contact Focus on Energy may qualify for a free feasibility study , to determine whether or not biomass heating is right for them.
In addition to the biomass systems in use in the Hayward Community schools, biomass is also being used to heat school buildings in the Barron and Rice Lake districts in Barron County, Shell Lake High Shool in Washburn County, and several others. Districts and communities are urged to contact Focus on Energy find out more.