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New biomass boiler puts Estacadas renewable energy plan on the map

Project used no general fund dollars, will reduce energy costs

With oil prices rising, the Estacada School District realized the way it was generating energy for the high school had to change. The district has solved that problem with help from McKinstry, Essention Inc. and the addition of a biomass boiler for the school that will stabilize energy costs.

When the district's energy bills came across the desk of the district's business manager, Donna Cancio, she saw that some months had such high numbers that the volatility in cost was beginning to put the district in a tough place. Evaluating her options with McKinstry's business development manager Cam Hamilton, Cancio realized the district could get money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help fund a renewable energy project.

With news that the school could get the $1 million necessary to fund the project, through a government loan and a $420,000 grant, without using any general fund dollars, McKinstry and the district began to look at systems.

A biomass boiler quickly emerged as the school's best option for a number of reasons. First, the cost of the wood pellets needed for the boiler is much more stable than the price of oil. Second, Cancio saw the opportunity to install a renewable energy source was an educational decision as well.

'Our goal was to reduce our annual costs, but there is a lot of educational merit to this project as well because there is a lot of value in having new technology on campus, especially with renewable energy,' Cancio said.

The overall savings the project offered the school was estimated at about $12,700 per year; however, that estimate was based on old oil prices of $2.20 per gallon, which have increased.

Aside from the annual savings and the economic stability the program has offered, the district's image is also being boosted by the project.

'Estacada received the largest award from the state energy fund of anyone,' McKinstry's Business Development Manager Cam Hamilton said, 'and this puts Estacada on the map in a very good light, especially as we use this as a showcase for Oregon.'

Once the boiler is up and running, estimated to be toward the end of September, the new fuel will reduce the carbon dioxide output by approximately 500,000 pounds per year. That number is the equivalent to taking 33 cars off the road for a year or planting 80 acres of new trees.