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Wild Center’s renewable heating system wins national award

April 4, 2011
Adirondack Daily Enterprise

TUPPER LAKE - The Wild Center's renewable energy heating system was recently named Bioenergy Project of the Year for Excellence in Renewable Energy at the Renewable Energy World Conference and Expo in Tampa, Fla.

The Wild Center took first place in the bioenergy category for its system that combines a solar hot water system with a highly efficient wood pellet boiler. Of the hundreds of national finalists selected by the Renewable Energy World Network of Editors, The Wild Center's system placed first for its achievements.

"We are really proud that a great North Country team won this award," said Stephanie Ratcliffe, The Wild Center's executive director. "The main boiler was manufactured in upstate New York, Clarkson University is monitoring the entire system, our wood pellets come from Massena, the installers are local businesses, and most of all we were able to switch from using expensive imported fuel to a super-efficient renewable source for our heat."

Ratcliffe said the system had attracted a lot of local attention from other organizations with high heating costs. The system will be showcased at the Center's upcoming Build a Greener Adirondacks Expo scheduled for the end of April.

"Our goal is to keep pushing the envelope in a practical way," Ratcliffe said. "We want to play a part in helping the Adirondack region find a new way to use energy, which will end up helping our economy." Ratcliffe cited the Center's 2009 study that showed the region spends $1.5 billion annually in energy. "Anytime we can cut that bill or spend the money locally it means more for the North Country economy."

First announced in July 2009 and commissioned in May 2010, the highly efficient wood pellet boiler is integrated with a solar hot water system that supplies much of the hot water required to heat the 54,000-square-foot facility in Tupper Lake. The new boiler system is the first highly efficient, commercial-sized, gasification wood-pellet boiler of its kind and size manufactured and installed in New York state. Additionally, the solar hot water collection system is the first of its kind used in a commercial application in the Adirondack region.

The project was supported by a $350,000 contract award by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

The clean burning and efficient renewable energy heating plant has already resulted in a 45 percent reduction in The Wild Center's GHG emissions in 2010, a significant reduction considering only six months of operation. Full year operations, beginning in 2011 will lead to even further reductions.

The 1.7 million BTU boiler unit is in The Wild Center's basement boiler room, next to the museum's existing propane boiler. The pellets are stored in an outdoor recycled shipping container next to the administration wing of the Center. The storage vessel also supports the solar thermal array to preheat water for the system. Pellets are augured through a series of pipes into the basement and directly into the boiler. Hot water from the solar thermal array is piped into the boiler through underground pipes.



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