PARIS — A wood pellet heating system at the Oxford County Courthouse is finally up and running.

It was a long time coming. The county secured grant funding in 2009 and had planned to install the heating system last year, but the project hit a setback when an engineer the commission hired for the project moved out of state. The commission moved on, hiring Richard Grondin, a consultant at Integrated Energy Systems in Falmouth.

The job took much of the fall, as contractors from Nason Mechanical Systems in Auburn replaced oil boilers with three new wood pellet boilers from Maine Energy Systems in Bethel, according to County Administrator Scott Cole. The new boilers are made by OkoFen, an Austrian brand, and assembled in Maine.

Cole said work included converting from steam to hot water and installing baseboard heat in the Registry of Deeds office. Two of the three oil boilers were removed, and the third will serve as a backup in case there are any problems with the new system.

So far, the boilers have run perfectly, Cole said. “They’re running surprisingly well,” he said, considering it’s an all-new heating system.

Installing wood pellet heat in the courthouse has been a goal for County Commissioner Caldwell Jackson since he first ran in 2007. Jackson said wood pellets create Maine jobs and save money for the county.

Much of the project was paid for by a $235,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The county paid the other $55,000 for the upgrade. Two of the boilers were already in need of replacement.

The pellets are stored in two bins in the basement that hold just over 15 tons. Cole said the county is expected to burn 70 tons of pellets, based on previous oil use, but said that number may be reduced after insulation work in the attic that was part of the project.

After looking at storage options, including an exterior silo for wood pellets, commissioners opted to store the pellets in the boiler room with the boilers. Cole said that although pellets take up more space, the new setup uses the same area as the oil system. A hot water heater had to be moved to a new space.

The county is purchasing pellets at $219 per ton.

The boiler system is staged, meaning that only one boiler runs when not much heat is needed. The other boilers turn on automatically when the load increases.

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