Edwards-Knox Central School

The Edwards-Knox Central School is located in Russel, NY. Since early 2010, they have been investigating installing a biomass boiler. Their investigation has been limited to shelled corn, wood pellets, and wood waste, including sawdust, woodchips, and bark. The boiler they have selected to use would be able to burn many types of biomass fuels by changing the fuel handling system. The flexibility in fuel source was important to the school for maintaining a cost-effective fuel procurement program. On any given year, the school will choose between burning wood chips, switch grass, wood pellets, or corn, depending on the price of each. The school plans to keep the oil boilers it already has as backup. Maintenance is planned to include daily checks on the equipment, grate cleaning, fuel procurement, monthly maintenance, and annual overhauls. Considerations for the site of the biomass boiler plant include access to existing utilities, fuel deliveries, safety, and architectural choices.

Information and updates on the project have been sent out by Dr. William Cartwright, Superintendent of Schools (p: 315-562-8325, f: 315-562-8440, e: wcartwri@ekcsk12.org). The biomass boiler plant was part of a $2.9 million project that also included new roofs, lighting upgrades, heating control upgrades, and other elements. State aid was to cover 97.6% of the biomass boiler plant construction project, and the remaining $69,000 was to come out of the EXCEL Aid Grant awarded for the general project. Approval for the biomass boiler, however, took nearly two years, as the NYS Education Department had never before approved a biomass boiler project (although many have been in use for many years in other New England states). New estimates have been well over the original $2.9 million plan, which, in addition to an over $1 million misquote and the NYS Education Department's demand of changes due to safety measures, have caused the price of the biomass boiler plant to rise dramatically.

The roofing portion of the general project has already been completed, and so as of May 2010 the school faced a decision as to how to proceed with the money they have remaining. They left it up to the district residents to decide on one of three options: scale back the biomass boiler power plant and eliminate all other aspects of the original project; complete every aspect of the project except for the biomass boiler; apply for an additional $1.6 million to complete the project as planned. None of these options take money from local taxpayers, as the EXCEL Aid Grant is to cover the local portion of the funds. On May 19, 156 ballots were issued, and voters decided in favor of expanding the biomass project and getting further funding.

The school has done calculations of how much money would be saved if the biomass boiler power plant were to be built. They used this year's fuel oil costs and wood chip costs to determine an average of $127,250 to $131,230, including estimated maintenance costs of $1,000 to $5,000 per year. No further personnel is expected to be needed. There will be an additional cost of $20,000 to retube the boiler every 15-20 years, as compared to the 30-year requirement of the fuel oil boiler. Wood chips are to come from local sources. Bids have been developed by four local contractors within a 50-mile radius, but more local bidders may be expected. Diagrams of a biomass boiler and a biomass boiler power plant similar to what they plan to use have been presented by the school, but it is unclear as of now whether the boiler shown is the model they plan to purchase.

Last updated May 23, 2015