University to convert major Rindge Campus buildings to renewable energy heat

January 19, 2009

The Bubble
The University's indoor athletics complex, known as "The Bubble," along with student residences in Granite, New Hampshire and Mount Washington Halls, will be converted to wood pellet heating systems this year.

RINDGE, NH - Franklin Pierce University has contracted with International WoodFuels LLC of Portland, Maine to provide wood pellet heating systems for several major buildings on the Rindge Campus this year as part of the institution's commitment to environmental sustainability and energy efficiency, University President George J. Hagerty announced this week.

The conversion from oil-burning to wood pellet boilers is expected to be completed this year for Granite Hall and the Northfields Activity Center. The new heating systems will serve student residences in Granite, New Hampshire and Mount Washington Halls, as well as the entire Northfields airframe structure known on campus as "The Bubble."

"There are several advantages to heating a portion of our campus with biomass such as wood pellets," President Hagerty said. "The first advantage is cost savings and the ability to more accurately project energy costs. Another important benefit is that wood pellets are a community-based, local and renewable resource. That is important as Franklin Pierce continues to take steps to reduce its fossil fuel consumption and carbon footprint."

Fuel is renewable and locally-harvested

The service offered by International WoodFuels LLC is revolutionary within the rapidly emerging wood pellet industry. As an alternative to selling wood pellets, or wood pellet boilers, WoodFuels provides all of the equipment (their Green Energy System) at no capital cost, and invoices its customers only for the metered heat they use, much in the same manner that customers purchase electricity. WoodFuels offers a fully integrated, sustainable energy solution which uses a renewable, locally-harvested resource.

"We are very pleased to partner with Franklin Pierce University, as we believe our energy program is ideally suited for educational institutions seeking to lower energy costs while reducing their impact on the environment," said WoodFuels President Steven Mueller. "By virtue of the fact that we manufacture our pellets from whole logs, derived from wood sources that adhere to sustainable forestry practices, and we deliver our pellets within a day's trucking service territory, our Green Energy solution ensures a low carbon footprint for the entire supply and conveyance process."

The University's commitment to Green Energy heating systems will be a significant step in the move towards climate neutrality, said Dr. Catherine Owen Koning, Professor of Environmental Science at Franklin Pierce. "While burning any form of wood does release carbon dioxide, the dense and healthy forests of New Hampshire take in this carbon dioxide," she said. "So as long as the forests re-grow as fast as they are cut and burned, this form of heating is sustainable and adds no net carbon to the atmosphere."

University to derive long-term energy cost savings

The new heating systems are also expected to provide the University with long term cost savings, both in the purchase of energy and in maintaining existing oil furnaces. "Our current boilers will initially serve as back-up units, but the switch to a wood pellet system means that we won't need to focus on upgrades and repairs to older equipment," said University Vice President and Athletic Director Bruce Kirsh.

Kirsh said that the University will move forward with converting other campus buildings to more-efficient and environmentally-friendly heating sources as capital budgets and technology permits.

Director of Facilities Doug Lear said that the University continues to follow a strategic long term plan to reduce consumption of fossil fuels in favor of biomass where appropriate. In the past year, the University's diesel vehicles have started running on a blend of 20% biodiesel. The vehicles include one of the campus shuttle buses as well as the trucks and heavy equipment operated by the Facilities Department.

Heating conversion part of Franklin Pierce's "Climate Commitment"

All of these efforts are part of the University's broader initiative to eventually become "carbon neutral." In 2007, President Hagerty signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment along with 500 other institution presidents. A Sustainability Council, composed of faculty, staff and students, was created to lead Franklin Pierce's efforts. Since then, administrators, faculty and staff have begun an inventory of the University's greenhouse gas emissions and have taken steps to reduce cafeteria waste and encourage recycling.

Ongoing work toward sustainability includes replacing old appliances with more efficient "Energy Star" models, protecting 46 acres of University property with a conservation easement, and the 2005 completion of a campus-wide environmental assessment, which was recognized by the National Wildlife Federation's Campus Ecology program.

"The energy and enthusiasm on campus have been fabulous," Professor Owen Koning said. "Lots of students, faculty and staff have expressed interest and taken action to protect the environment. I think people are starting to realize that we are facing a serious problem with global climate change, species extinctions and habitat loss. And everyone is rolling up their sleeves and getting to work to try to save us from ourselves."

Read news coverage in the Monadnock Ledger Transcript.