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Wild Center to install innovative heating system

July 24, 2009
By JESSICA COLLIER, Enterprise Staff Writer

TUPPER LAKE - The Wild Center plans to install an innovative heating system this fall that will include solar and wood-gasification components.

The natural history museum, which has a silver LEED certification, unveiled plans for the system at a well-attended presentation Thursday morning. Sustainable-energy experts hailed the system, planned to be one of the most efficient of its kind in the U.S., as something the rest of the country will be able to learn from.

"Here in New York, in the Adirondacks, in Tupper Lake, we're certainly setting an example for the world," said Mark Watson, project manager from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which is partnering with The Wild Center on the project.

Article Photos

This storage unit, a recycled steel shipping container, will store 30 tons of sustainably forested wood pellets as part of the planned heating system at The Wild Center.
(Artist’s rendering provided by The Wild Center)

Museum Facilities Manager Chris Rdzanek said the 1.7 million BTU system will cost between $350,000 and $400,000. Through NYSERDA, The Wild Center has secured a $300,000 grant for the project and will use donations and some money from its operating fund to cover the rest, Rdzanek said.

"Even in a year when, I think you all know, budgets are tight everywhere, we said, 'This is important, and we want to do it, and we've got to find a way,'" said museum board Vice Chairman Lynn Birdsong.


The system

The Wild Center, which is now heated exclusively with propane, will have its heating system diversified with solar and wood-gasification components.

Outside the museum on its east side, a wood pellet storage bin that is planned to hold 30 tons of sustainably-forested wood pellets will be installed. The bin will be a recycled steel shipping container tipped onto an edge.

An automated auger will carry the pellets from the bin into the boiler room of the museum, where a new wood-pellet gasification boiler will be installed.

David Dungate, of Advanced Climate Technologies, the Schenectady-based manufacturer of the boiler, said the boiler should be up to 90 percent efficient and burn so clean you won't be able to see smoke.

"We're the first manufacturer in the U.S. to have this type of high-efficiency, low-emissions design for commercial boilers," Dungate said.

Solar panels will line the top of the pellet bin. The solar energy will be transported into the boiler room as well and stored in a new solar thermal storage tank.

The new heating system will first use available solar energy. It will then use energy available from the wood boiler. Then it will use the existing propane.



Fresh from getting the Republican nod for the U.S. congressional seat soon to be vacated by John McHugh, state Assemblywoman Deirdre Scozzafava of Gouverneur showed up to support the project. She said that if she is elected to Congress, she will push green-energy initiatives.

"I think it's very important," Scozzafava said. "Really, it's all tied into our economy and making our economy a little more self-sufficient, and the less we can depend on the outside delivery of oil, I think, makes our economy stronger, so it definitely has to be a priority."

State Sen. Betty Little said she thought it was great that The Wild Center would be an example for making improvements on current energy models.

"It makes a great example," Little said.

Village Mayor Mickey Desmarais said he was excited about the project.

"This whole thing is a new beginning, because everyone across the country is starting these things," Desmarais said.

He said he was invigorated by the fact that this type of innovation would spur economic development, has the potential to set a model for cutting carbon emissions and could end the U.S. dependency on foreign oil.


Monitoring and education

The new system's emissions from both the wood gasification and the hydronic heating system will be monitored by experts from Clarkson University.

The system will also be made part of a museum exhibit, educating visitors of the museum about the innovative technology.


Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 25 of



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