More than 100 people attended an open house at Northern Maine Medical Center on Feb. 11 to view the hospital's new biomass-fueled boiler system.
The Chiptec furnace, which came online in December, will save the hospital roughly $200,000 a year using wood chips sourced from a sawmill in Portage, Maine. "We wanted a system that would run efficiently and allow us the flexibility to utilize different sources of biomass fuel, which the Chiptec furnace does. We also wanted to ensure that when there are maintenance and repair issues, parts and service would be readily available so we didn't have to rely on our back-up fuel source for extended periods, as we intend to run the biomass furnace year-round," said Joey Bard, NMMC facilities director.
The furnace includes features that make managing the equipment more convenient for the hospital. Unlike other biomass furnaces, the NMMC furnace has a gravity-fed storage system that feeds a conveyor to minimize jamming and reduces the number of augers needed to deliver fuel. Additionally, the controls can be accessed remotely or online.
According to Joanne Fortin, a registered nurse who works at the hospital, the biggest challenge was financing the new boiler. The funding came through $750,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service and a $6.7 million Community Facility Guaranteed Loan. Hospital officials believe the project will have paid for itself in about four years due to the grant funds and the anticipated savings.
"This is clearly a win-win," said Peter Sirois, NMMC chief executive officer in December, "Not only will the hospital save a considerable amount of money and significantly reduce our carbon, footprint, but we will simultaneously give a boost to northern Maine's economy by keeping the money we spend on heating our facility in the local area."