Pennsylvania Fuels for Schools & Beyond
The Pocono Northeast RC&D Council initiated the Pennsylvania Fuels for Schools and Beyond Program in 2006. This statewide energy-use initiative, promotes the use of local renewable resources to provide reliable energy for Pennsylvania schools and businesses. With environmental concerns and fuel costs mounting, many Americans are looking for ways to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and replace them with renewable energy sources. In Pennsylvania, renewable energy sources include wood, wood residue and dedicated agricultural energy crops, also known as biomass. The Pennsylvania Fuels for Schools & Beyond program is helping schools and businesses understand the economic, operational, and environmental benefits of biomass systems. Numerous sources of funding assistance exist for biomass energy systems in Pennsylvania for schools, institutions, greenhouses or other businesses. Both state and federal programs have grant and loan opportunities available at certain times during the year.
Benton Area School District:
The Council is working in cooperation with the Benton Area School District in Columbia County to install a biomass heating system that will provide heat to both the elementary and middle/high school buildings. The Council was instrumental in assisting the school district with acquiring a $350,000 grant from the PA Energy Development Authority (PEDA) to assist with the installation costs of the biomass heating system. Currently, the district’s heating system is a hot water boiler fueled with oil with an average heating load requirement of approximately 45,000 gallons of oil or more per year needed to heat both schools. Through this project, the district is going to be installing a biomass boiler system that will be able to produce approximately 80% or more of the schools heating requirements throughout the entire heating season. By using biomass it will offset almost 36,000 gallons of oil that will not be needed.
Biomass & Renewable Fuel Development Utilizing Pelletized Grasses Project:
The Council is working in cooperation with numerous partners to facilitate the growth of grassland agriculture systems which can provide economically competitive and more environmentally friendly fuel choices for consumer energy needs. The “Biomass & Renewable Fuel Development Utilizing Pelletized Grasses Project” focuses on the construction and subsequent demonstration of a mobile pelletizing unit that will densify grassland biomass fuel for direct combustion for heat and energy. This unit will be used as an important demonstration tool for this technology in the marketplace. By demonstrating this relatively small-scale, affordable, conversion technology to the public, the project will serve as proof of technology to farmers and landowners interested in energy production on the land and will facilitate the integration of this equipment into the local agriculture community. In addition, public awareness will be raised concerning the very real benefits of grassland agriculture and will demonstrate to the general public how they can, as consumers, make choices which help to protect the integrity of their rural communities and environments.