By Bruce Roberts – Ozark County Times
Several dignitaries were on hand Monday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony unveiling Gainesville School District’s new $2.1 million biomass thermal energy system that will save the school more than $37,000 per year in heating costs and make the school one of a handful of school districts in Missouri using green energy.
Part of the project was funded by a $970,000 grant from the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Gainesville is one of seven schools in the state to receive a portion of $6 million in grant money funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as part of the Fuels for Schools project.
Other funding mechanisms will help cover the remaining cost of the project.
The school has installed a wood-chip-fueled boiler that will supply 85 percent of the heat for the four buildings that make up the 76,000-square-foot high school/junior high complex. Previously, the buildings were heated by individual propane forced-air units and electric baseboard heating. The annual fuel costs to heat the complex previously ran about $55,000. The projected annual cost of the new biomass system is about $18,000 and will use approximately 240 tons of wood chips.
Also, a “chiller” was installed that will provide air conditioning for the school. Previously some areas had window air conditioning units, but many areas, like the gymnasium, had no air conditioning.
The biomass unit is the cutting edge of green technology, officials said, and emits virtually no smoke or odor.
City, county, state and federal officials joined students, administrators and members of the public in Monday’s ceremony and ribbon-cutting. Gainesville students performed the ribbon-cutting and several students were given pieces of the ribbon as mementos of the event.
Several speakers made remarks at the event, including State Rep. Lyle Rowland, who talked about the new system’s connection with the local job market. “We’re in a period of economic downturn,” said Rowland. “This system will create local jobs and will help sustain local employment.”
A Dora company was chosen recently to deliver the wood chips.
The new system will be fully online the first of November.