By Kevin McKinnon, Colebrook Energy Committee
In December, 2011 the Town of Colebrook hired the Biomass Energy Resource Center in partnership with Wilson Engineering to conduct an in-depth feasibility analysis of establishing a biomass district energy system in the Town of Colebrook. Last month that study was completed and is now available on the Town website.
The final 97-page report, funded by grants from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the Northern Forest Center, Clean Air-Cool Planet, and First Colebrook Bank details how a woodchip-fired central hot-water boiler plant, located in the Industrial Park, could provide hot water for heating to commercial buildings and homes throughout the downtown of Colebrook via a network of buried pipes. The study also examined how such a project could begin small, beginning with just 41 heat customers and expand to eventually connect over 400 buildings. The report explores the logistics, engineering, and financial viability of such a district heating plant that conceptually would be operated as a heat utility by the Town of Colebrook. The study concludes that, with some grant funds to lower the project’s initial construction costs, the plant could reliably deliver heat to buildings and homes that choose to connect to the system for less than it would cost to heat their home or building with oil or propane.
Woodchip heating is very common and has been growing in popularity in New Hampshire and Vermont over the past few decades. Today, dozens of schools, hospitals, colleges, and businesses in New Hampshire use boilers fueled with woodchips and pellets to lower their heating bills. Concord Steam, a private company, has operated a biomass district heating plant for over twenty years in Concord, New Hampshire. Unlike Concord Steam, who pipes steam to dozens of buildings, the proposed district heating plant in Colebrook would use modern hot water pipes commonly used in Europe.
The recently released in-depth study, builds upon earlier preliminary studies, and draws the same end conclusion—that a woodchip fueled districting heating plant is logistically, technology and financially feasible and such a project would generate additional economic benefits. The benefits cited in the study include lower and more predictable energy costs, air quality improvements by reducing the number of small individual boilers in the town, and more dollars retained in the local economy by using local wood fuel.