Efforts to complete UMFK’s multimillion dollar biomass project are ON SCHEDULE according to university officials. So much so, some campus buildings could start to receive heat from the wood pellet fuel project as early as next month. Construction crews are working hard to get UMFK’s MASSIVE biomass project at the Fort Kent Armory, up and running. With a 30 man construction crew putting in long hours, UMFK Administration Vice President John Murphy says the 18 month project is ON SCHEDULE. He says two campus buildings, the Blake Library and the Fox Nadeau Cyr Complex could be the first to begin receiving wood pellet fuel heat as early as next month. John Murphy is the Vice President of Administration for UMFK and says “All the underground work is pretty much done there’s some cosmetics that will take place in the spring as far as the different boiler rooms are in the process of doing some retrofit the systems are pretty much ready to run we’ll be test firing them during the first week of Feb. And if everything goes well there we’ll be putting a load on it and heating it the entire month of Feb. And then the rest of the season for at least a portion of our campus.”
Ultimately, the 4 thousand square foot biomass plant within the armory will heat all nine campus buildings…along with Fort Kent’s community high school and the elementary school. That’s 11 buildings in all. As an alternative fuel project, Murphy says there will be major cost savings seen in about ten years. Right now he says it costs about 335 thousand dollars to heat the 11 buildings. But the project should reduce that by about 50 percent. “It seems like you’d see some immediate savings at today’s price I think a million BTU’s of number two fuel is about 30 dollars, a million BTU’s produced from wood pellets is nine dollars although that’s a big difference there is the cost of renovations, the upgrades all the work has to be done and there is gonna be some debt service on this one,” says Murphy. “Well they have the resources and they really have the need for this oil is just a thing that is slowly gonna go by the waste side pellets and biomass in general is gonna be the future and they’re taking a first step in the right direction,” adds Brian Boutin the Site Superintendent for the project. A first step that started with just an idea CONCEPT and everyday gets closer to CONCRETE reality. In addition to heating the 11 buildings, the 5.5 million dollar project will also heat the Fort Kent Forestry Department which will relocate to the armory building. Its a project that’s FUELING all kinds of opportunities for the town of Fort Kent. Murphy says “We’re striving to become more carbon neutral all the time and this is a big step for doing that I think if you look at the all hard earned dollars that’s being spent taxpayers as well as students are paying us for tuition I think this is a much better way to fuel the campus but its just the economic impact for the entire region and that’s just our mission here as well.” Murphy says he hopes all of the campus buildings will be set to receive wood pellet heat by August, with the next phase of the project turning to heat the high school and elementary school buildings.