Our Maine Street's Aroostook Issue 18 : Fall 2013 - Page 75

reached out and shared the opportunity with Aroostook Partners for Progress, so the two organizations could work collaboratively for the economic benefit of the region. In May, 2013, a team of three individuals from NMCC and three from the Northern Maine Development Commission and APP traveled to Switzerland. The intent of the trip was twofold — to show the Schmid leadership the state-of-the-art control system designed by NMCC staff to monitor all aspects of the College’s Schmid boiler operation and to explore whether Schmid has interest in coming to Aroostook to manufacture their boilers for the American and Canadian markets. The group also had the opportunity to visit the University of Lucerne Applied Science Department to discuss the multi-national research and development efforts they have been working on for some time in the biomass industry. “Schmid was impressed with the precision and scope of the control system in use at NMCC. We hope the company is interested in our technology to enhance their systems,” explained Crowley. “The connections with Schmid and the University of Lucerne are very important to the College, since we have a deep interest in biomass energy and can benefit from sharing knowledge.” In addition to the excitement surrounding the installation of the Schmid biomass boiler at the College, NMCC worked this summer to expand its energy lab to incorporate new biomass training opportunities. The size of the facility nearly doubled, with the College now using the entire building that it leases in the Presque Isle Industrial Park. Four new solid fuel boilers have been purchased and installed in the new portion of the energy center to provide training experiences for students. The new equipment includes two different styles of pellet boilers, a lower-range model and a high-end one, as well as a pellet conversion burner installed on a traditional oil-fired unit and a gasification wood pellet burner, which NMCC President Tim Crowley and others from NMCC, NMDC and APP tour the Schmid facility in Switzerland. burns wood very quickly and efficiently. A 550- gallon tank to store heated water and two units for storing pellets have also been installed. The equipment was purchased through a grant from the United States Forest Service. “This variety in types and styles of solid fuel boilers offers expanded training opportunities for our students. They get experience working on a wider range of units that they might encounter when working in the field,” said Al St. Peter, lead plumbing and heating instructor at the College. St. Peter has created a new 2-credit Solid Fuel Equipment course that will be required of all new students entering NMCC’s plumbing and heating program. Students will gain experience in piping arrangement, serving and troubleshooting, as well as learn Maine codes pertaining to solid fuels. “Pellets are getting bigger every year. It’s exciting that we can heat our homes with fuel that comes from Aroostook County,” said St. Peter. “Not only do we benefit from fuel savings in our homes, but the region benefits economically.” Beyond having the resources for wood pellets which are so popular now, area farmers have the land and equipment needed to harvest what may be the wave of the future: grass pellets, according to St. Peter. In fact, that possibility was one reason NMCC selected the particular model of biomass boiler from Schmid. It has the capability of burning either wood or grass pellets. “NMCC not only