Maine Department of Corrections’ Facility “Going Greener” With New Biomass Thermal Heating System

Mountain View Youth Development Center Will Be Among First In The Nation to Heat with Wood Pellets

By Ramona du Houx

January 28th, 2010 

The Maine Department of Corrections has partnered with International WoodFuels (www.iwoodfuels.com), a Portland based thermal energy provider, to install a state-of-the-art metered wood pellet heating system at the Mountain View Youth Development Center in Charleston.

The center will be among the first corrections facilities in the nation to utilize metered heat from locally sourced wood pellets. The State is estimating that the installation of the new wood pellet boiler will eliminate the center’s use of approximately 145,000 gallons of heating oil annually, further reducing the department’s overall consumption of heating fuel by 20 percent.

“My administration has made it a top priority to find new and innovative ways to reduce the reliance that State-owned facilities have on foreign energy sources,” stated Governor Baldacci. “The Department of Corrections has made great progress in meeting its commitments to reduce its fossil fuel consumption with a variety of sustainable energy initiatives. The introduction of a thermal heating system that relies on locally grown wood pellets at the Mountain View Youth Development Center is a great example.”

The secure juvenile center, located in Charleston, will begin utilizing the WoodFuels’ program next year, which includes the engineering, construction, operation and maintenance of a highly efficient industrial wood pellet boiler and storage silo, all at no cost to the state. The company, along with center staff, will monitor the system in real time via the web and pellets will be delivered as needed by WoodFuels. Unique to the company’s business model, the Department of Corrections is not required to pre-buy pellet supply from WoodFuels, but rather receives a monthly invoice for the metered BTU’s that the system consumes to heat the facility. The price per BTU is negotiated annually and is determined by calculating specific economic factors.

The department, in partnership with the State’s Bureau of General Services, entered into a 10-year energy service agreement (ESA) with WoodFuels following a competitive proposal process that guaranteed that the center will save the State thousands of dollars over heating with its current fuel source. The center is required to use the system as its main source of heat for the life of the contract.

The public/private partnership was made possible due to the approval of a new law by the Maine State Legislature and Governor Baldacci allowing State agencies through the Bureau of General Services to enter long term energy generation/co-generation ESA’s for the purpose of increasing energy conservation, independence and security. This measure has put the Department of Corrections, and all State departments, in a stronger position to decrease their yearly fuel and energy expenses that are paid for with citizen’s tax dollars.

“Improved energy efficiency and security is a priority throughout State government and for the Department of Corrections,” said DOC Commissioner Martin Magnusson. “It’s critical that we aggressively manage our energy costs particularly during these difficult financial times.”

Statewide, the Center’s transition from fossil fuels to wood pellets will reduce consumption of #2 heating oil at sState-owned facilities of the executive branch by approximately 5 percent each year, adding to the hundreds of thousands of gallons of heating fuel that Maine has already slashed at other State-owned facilities. The system is expected to also remove nearly 1,609 tons of carbon emission each year, equivalent to removing 266 cars from the State’s roads.

WoodFuels, which owns and operates its own pellet manufacturing facilities including one currently being constructed in Burnham, will remove the department’s need to monitor fluctuating fossil fuel prices that have stretched State agencies’ budgets in recent years. The company only produces pellets for their metered heat customers, ensuring adequate supply during the extended Maine heating season.

“WoodFuels metered thermal energy program will supply heat to the Mountain View Youth Development Center with a guaranteed supply of clean, carbon neutral wood pellets that are harvested and produced right here from Maine’s abundant wood supply,” said Steve J. Mueller, President of WoodFuels. “Our partnership will not only reduce the use of fossil fuels in the State, which is a mission of WoodFuels, but will create and support jobs within the forestry and biomass industry across Maine.”

In addition to the new wood pellet thermal heating system, the Executive Branch facilities of State government are heating with other renewable and alternative energy sources including cord wood (biomass), natural gas and geothermal energy. All electricity consumed by the Department of Corrections, as well as at all State-owned facilities, is from 100 percent renewable sources through the purchase of Maine-based renewable energy credits.

The State has also undertaken a variety of ongoing and incremental efforts – such as improved or reduced lighting, weatherization, improved control and operation of building environmental systems, improved measurement of energy use and other conservation projects, all helping to reduce energy consumption.

The Mountain View Youth Development Center, located in Charleston, is a 133-bed, secure juvenile facility that detains male and female juvenile offenders and male committed offenders from 11 to 21 years of age, with the majority being 16-19 years old. The facility serves the northern, eastern and central regions of the State of Maine, to include fourteen counties: Androscoggin, Aroostook, Franklin, Hancock, Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Sagadahoc, Somerset, Waldo, and Washington.