Rutland Herald: Welch inspects new RHS wood-burning system
Congressman Peter Welch visited Rutland High School on Monday afternoon to see for himself the new heating system that has been implemented throughout the city school district as part of a more energy efficient initiative within the schools.
The school district first partnered with Johnson Controls in 2009 to replace the existing boilers in Rutland Middle School with more cost- and energy-efficient wood-pellet fueled boilers.
The results of the improvement proved more substantial than expected, and the school district decided to go forward with an even larger-scaled version to replace all of the school boilers this past summer.
Welch said the model is one that he would like to see happen in Washington, D.C.
“I’m excited to present similar ideas in the Capitol,” he said.
Using wood-pellet boilers as a main source of heating has dramatic benefits for the schools involved.
The boilers provide a more efficient, constant source of heat.
According to the school district analysis of the boilers, shifting to this new system is lower in cost, carbon neutral and the fuel is locally sourced. It covers roughly 80 percent of the schools’ annual heating bill.
“Some of the infrastructure in these buildings is 50 years old,” said Mary Moran, superintendent of Rutland City schools. “We need to keep making energy-efficient updates.”
Other improvements to the schools have included better ventilation systems, window insulation and general weatherization of the older buildings.
The project has produced such energy-cost savings that the district was able to include $1.6 million worth of capital improvements that might not necessarily be energy driven, but still needed to be done to the schools.
This $1.6 million otherwise would have been financed by adding to the annual budget and increasing the tax rate.
So far this year, the schools have not burned any oil, except one day recently when RHS was unable to get a new shipment of wood pellets because of snowy weather.
Moran said not only has this project been exceptional for cost and efficiency, but also for jobs.
“We used as much local products and contractors as possible and created a substantial amount of jobs in the area by doing so,” she said.
Ned Raynolds, account executive at Johnson Controls, showed Welch the new boilers at the school, explaining how they worked.
Oil today costs about $2.85 per gallon, he explained. But the wood pellets equivalent cost to oil would be about $1.75 per gallon.
RHS still has it’s oil-burning furnace, retaining the ability to choose between oil and wood pellets as fuel prices change and in the event that something goes wrong with one, such as the lack of pellets during last week’s snowstorm.
Raynolds will meet with the Proctor School Board to discuss a similar system in the high school and the elementary school.
“It’s obviously going to be a very small system compared to the Rutland one, but its a huge step in a great direction,” Raynolds said.