OXFORD — SAD 17 officials are awaiting an engineering study that will determine the future heating systems for the district’s school buildings.

“We’re looking at different boilers at all the schools,” said Facilities Director Dave Marshall.

While SAD 17 officials are leaning toward wood chip boilers, Marshall said the final determination will be made once the engineering study is completed next month. Wood chip heat is only one of the heating methods being investigated by Seimens Technology in their engineering study, he said.

“We’re looking at oil, propane, biomass. What’s going to be the best savings for us,” said Marshall. “We’re trying to look at everything. We’re looking outside the box. We want long term, renewable, something that’s here,” he explained.

SAD 17 school officials began investigating alternative heating systems to oil last year and were in the process of developing a $1.5 to $2.2 million wood chip boiler conversion program when state-wide budget constraints put a hold on it. The plan was intended to make the district more energy independent by helping to reduce the dependence on foreign oil sources and save the district almost $400,000 in heating costs.

The project idea was generated when the price of oil was $3.61 per gallon.

Currently the district pays $1.99 per gallon for heating oil but Marshall said there is no guarantee the price will remain low in the future years. Converting to wood chips would provide a ten-year contract and more importantly, said Marshall, the energy company SAD 17 contracts with would guarantee the projected savings or pay for any overage.

If approved, SAD 17 would enter into a performance contracts with an energy service company such as Seimens. About 58 percent of the work would be paid through a state revolving fund and the rest is paid back through savings achieved by the new heating systems, said Marshall. The performance contract would mean that if it does not meet the contracted goals in savings, the district would not be responsible financially for the overrun.

In 2007, SAD 17 demonstrated a 17 to 30 percent reduction in annual energy consumption and an annual cost savings of $247,942 through its various energy reducing methods under a performance contract.

Marshall said wood pellets are being looked at but it doesn’t appear they will be a viable heating system for SAD 17 because they are more expensive than wood chips. Although SAD 9 recently went to a wood pellet system, Marshall said the cost savings are more evident in that district because a wood pellet manufacturer is situated in their district, thus lowering the costs.

“We want a more stable market. We think chips will be. We can predict out ten years,” said Marshall.

After the engineering report is completed, school officials will review the study and make a recommendation to the SAD 17 Board of Directors.

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