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Biomass plant nears completion in time for heating season

Major construction for a biomass plant between Winnisquam Regional High School and Middle School was completed on Aug. 25, right on schedule, officials said. Courtesy photo. (click for larger version)
September 15, 2010
TILTON — Work on the biomass plant between Winnisquam High School and Middle School is nearing an end, just in time for cooler weather.

"Everything's been completed right on time, and I couldn't be happier or more excited," said Ian Raymond, the project's biggest advocate.

Facilities manager for the district, Jeff Lamb, is equally pleased and said it won't be long before the boiler is ready to fire up.

"We walked through with our punch list last week, and we still have some small things to be done inside, but all the major construction is done just as they promised," Lamb said.

The structure of the building was done by Eckman Construction Company out of Bedford as part of a $3.5 million bond approved a year ago at a special district meeting. Honeywell is overseeing the project and said the district would see a 15-year positive cash flow on energy expenses after utility rebates, monies from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and other funding available for such initiatives.

Lamb said that back in mid-July when the trenches for the heating plant were open, he could not envision all the work being done by Aug. 25 as Eckman had told him.

"They met the deadline like they said they would though. They've done a few of these biomass plants now, and they did a great job," said Lamb.

At this stage in construction he reported they were down to just the finishing touches before the boiler is fired up. Painting in the classroom, trim, pipe insulation and some minor electrical work remains. Lamb said the first load of wood chips, which will be used to fuel the burner, has been ordered and will be arriving in the next week, and training session for employees will be held in the beginning of October. Personnel from both the middle and high school's grounds and maintenance crews will learn how to operate the boiler and troubleshoot any problems that may arise.

"We'll have Ian here for the training as well since he was the driving force behind the project," Lamb said.

They hope to have Raymond videotape the training so it can be used in the future to help in orientation for any new employees as well.

The idea of a biomass plant was new to Lamb, having just come to New Hampshire from Ohio last January. He said he is enthusiastic about what he has learned about the concept and feels it is a viable and energy-efficient option for other school districts that may be considering a biomass heating facility.

"This type of heat should really be used all throughout New England," he said.

Raymond is looking forward to not just the first day of operation but also the educational opportunities in the new building. A new classroom built off the heating plant will be used to introduce students to some of the "green" careers that will be available to them after high school. Raymond said "green" jobs are on the rise, and it is important to have students aware and ready for careers in this realm.

"Those are really the jobs of the future and it'll be great to be able to teach students about the opportunities that are out there in this new and growing field," Raymond said.

Like the agricultural program in Winnisquam, Raymond said he understands that students from the eight schools who attend classes in forestry, horticulture and other outdoor programs will all be able to attend "green" classes at the school in the near future.

"It opens up a whole new field to them and I think it could be just as successful as the Voc-Ag program has been," he said.

Raymond said he is looking forward to speaking with the curriculum director to lay the groundwork for programs in energy efficiency and other fields that many students will benefit from.

The scheduled start up date for the biomass plant is yet to be determined but Lamb speculated it would be sometime in the first week of October.

Martin Lord & Osman
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