Tannery Marketplace heats entire building with new wood pellet system



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Ray Cloutier received grant and loan funds to install a wood pellet heating system for the Tannery Marketplace on Saranac Street. The system fired up on Thursday. Cloutier will hold an open house at the Tannery next month as part of his continuing interest in river district revitalization. (Photo by Darin Wipperman) (click for larger version)
October 14, 2015
LITTLETON—In more than 20 years of ownership at the Tannery Marketplace, Ray Cloutier has pondered many ideas on how to bring economic development to his neighborhood. A big step was taken last week after the Tannery building began using wood pellets for heat.

The highly efficient system and low cost of pellets now permit Cloutier to heat the building's basement, opening up 12,000 of additional space. Thus, he hopes to increase tenant occupancy in the river district landmark.

In previous years, Cloutier heated the main level and upper floor of the Tannery with heating oil. Electric space heaters provided tenants a means of additional heating, necessary because the old structure previously lacked an efficient way to distribute heat across the two floors.

Cloutier spent about $18,000 in heating oil each year, with nearly $2,500 in added electric heat. Now, the Tannery will use a regional renewable heat source that is growing in popularity.

Wood pellets are cheaper than heating oil, and regional biomass offers more stable pricing. Cloutier said switching to pellets was "the best solution we could find" to heat the basement and attract tenants to the space.

Funding for the conversion to pellets included a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that covered 25 percent of the project cost. Cloutier also received a $10,000 grant from the Northern Forest Center.

A loan from the Community Development Finance Authority covered the rest. As part of the deal, Cloutier had to demonstrate that, even with loan payments, he would not increase his overall costs for heating.

Thanks to the elimination of the more expensive heating oil and electric backup, Cloutier believes he will spend about half as much to heat the Tannery, even with the big expansion in the amount of area covered.

Water heated by the pellets is piped through six loops, each of which connects to multiple zones. Previously, the building's heat distribution had five zones, now Cloutier has 18.

Many tenants will have their own thermostat as a result, and the improved efficiency makes the building more comfortable. As Cloutier noted, the new system creates "a curtain of heat" that fills each room from piping along the building's exterior walls.

"The first thing we needed to do was heat the basement," Cloutier said.

With that mission accomplished, he seeks to showcase how the basement could be attractive for possible tenants.

Two events scheduled for Nov. 17 are Cloutier's next step to inform the community about the increased space at the Tannery. The first invitation-only meeting will be followed by an open house for the public from 4 to 7 p.m.

In an announcement to building tenants, Cloutier said the open house provides a chance "to showcase your business and network with other tenants as well as the community." Cloutier also plans tours of the Tannery's new heating system as part of the day's festivities.

Not content to stand idle, Cloutier sees the Tannery's large roof as another spot for possible renewable energy. He dreams of solar panels providing all of the building's electricity.

"There could be a solar farm up there," Cloutier said.

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