Leaders of the Old South Congregational Church in Farmington expect to save about $8,000 a year with the conversion from conventional oil burners to high-efficiency wood pellet boilers to heat the 13,000-square-foot church.

“We decided to switch to wood pellet heating to better support the local economy, to be more environmentally friendly and, of course, to save money,” Dale Bardo, treasurer and a trustee of Old South, said in a news release.

“The Model Neighborhood Project provided an incentive, and we decided it was a good investment to use our endowment to cover the cost of the new system. We’ll use the $8,000-a-year savings to repay our endowment and, after that, it will be pure savings,” he said.

Over the past several years, the church has used between 5,100 and 6,665 gallons of oil to heat the large brick sanctuary and ancillary rooms, spending as much as $20,000 a year to stay warm, the release stated.

The church is the largest building so far to participate in the Model Neighborhood Project serving Farmington and Wilton.

The Model Neighborhood Project’s goal is to help the Northern Forest region move away from dependence on imported oil toward a local energy source that will create jobs and strengthen the forest economy.

The Northern Forest Center and Western Maine Community Action are partnering on the Model Neighborhood Project, which is now offering a financial subsidy of 15 percent up to $3,000 toward the purchase and installation of a wood pellet boiler for qualified participants. In addition, the state of Maine offers a $5,000 statewide rebate for high-efficiency pellet boiler installations. For non-residential projects, the center offers a 30 percent subsidy up to $10,000 for selected non-residential projects.

To date, 11 homeowners and one other community building, the Fairbanks Union Church in Farmington, have converted from oil to wood pellet heat since the Model Neighborhood Project launched earlier this year, the release stated.

“We’ll be helping at least 25 homeowners and six community buildings get off oil for good, but what we’re really doing is inspiring change on a much larger scale,” said Maura Adams, program director for the Northern Forest Center.

“We’re creating a geographic concentration of pellet boiler users here in Western Maine. That will drive the development of pellet delivery systems and installation and maintenance services that we need so anyone would feel comfortable switching from oil to pellet heating,” she said.

She believes when people see how well these systems work, they’ll be motivated to make the change to wood pellet boilers.

“The economic benefits to the community are huge: Building owners save 40 to 50 percent on their heating costs, all of the money they spend stays in the local economy and demand for wood pellets helps create jobs in forestry and wood pellet manufacturing,” said Bill Crandall, Community Action’s Housing and Energy Services program manager.

Over 25 years of use, Old South should save $200,000 on heating costs and generate a positive economic impact for the region of more than $800,000.

“It can make such a difference to the community when what we spend on heat stays local,” Adams said.

Residents interested in participating in the program should contact Gabe Perkins at [email protected] More information about the program is available at www.wmca.org or by contacting Bill Crandall, [email protected], 207-860-4451 and online at www.northernforest.org/model_neighborhood_project.html.

Funds from the Doree Taylor Charitable Foundation, Efficiency Maine Trust, Horizon Foundation, Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities and the Wapack Foundation support the expansion of the Model Neighborhood Project to Farmington and Wilton.


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