UMFK welcomes first biomass plant
FORT KENT– On a rainy, windy, spring afternoon, the long-awaited biomass plant arrived at the Sports Center on the University of Maine at Fort Kent campus, marking the initiation of a new phase of heating history at UMFK.
Director of Facilities Management Andy Jacobs was present, along with President Wilson G. Hess, Director of University Relations and Alumni Affairs Terence Kelly, and many other spectators and workers. This event took place at the end of one phase of development on the campus aimed toward increasing the use of renewable energy sources and decreasing reliance on non-renewable and imported oil-based energy sources, and at the beginning of the transition into the next phase of that development.
“This is the big moment all the hard work has been leading up to,” said President Hess.
Now that the biomass plant is in place in the Sports Center, the primary effort that remains in the first phase is to kook the plant up to the plumbing and electrical wiring. This is Granite Corporation’s responsibility, a subcontractor for Ganneston Construction out of Augusta, said Jacobs. When the mechanical connections are completed, the biomass plant will be the principal provider for heat and hot water for both the Sports Center and adjacent residential hall, The Lodge. A single steam boiler will remain as a back-up system, said Kelly.
Hess said many students have expressed an interest in reducing the campus’s environmental footprint, and that they appreciate being part of a project that they see as contributing to a better world in some small way.
The next phase of campus development will feature the installation of a larger biomass plant that provides heat and hot water for most of the rest of the campus, as well as for a couple of buildings associated with Fort Kent Community High School, said Kelly.
He pointed out that beyond the biomass project helping to cement bonds between the university and the high school, but, by using renewable energy sources that are locally sourced, it helps keep money in the community.
“We’ve got the natural resources here to take care of our heating needs, our most costly utility. On the day after gas jumped 14 cents per gallon, alternative energy sources… are the way to go.”
The president said, “It’s not just about the university. It’s about the community, about all of us working together.”
Hess expressed gratitude for Jacob’s presence during the project. In Jacobs’ former position at the University of Maine campus in Orono, he became familiar with large heating plants, which has been a boon to the current project taking place at UMFK.
“He’s been instrumental to the project,” said Hess.
Jacobs said, due to funding deadlines and requirements, the overall project was broken up into many smaller projects. This increased the number of people and organizations responsible for their portion of the overall project, thereby increasing the possibility of delays and inefficiencies.
But this didn’t happen, said Jacobs. He praised the efforts and cooperation of the many stakeholders in the construction project, from the design team to the different contractors. A myriad of issues can arise in any construction project, but with so many different teams involved, the complexity and number of issues increases equivalently.
“They’ve done a stellar job,” he said. He smiled as a crane operator successfully lowered the biomass plant from a flatbed trailer onto wooden skids, just prior to entering its new home in the UMFK Sports Center.