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Tupper seeks $300k for biomass study

August 22, 2012
By JESSICA COLLIER - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

TUPPER LAKE - The village is looking to switch the Sunmount Developmental Disabilities Service Offices to a more environmentally friendly heating and hot water system.

The 60 buildings at Sunmount's campus currently run on oil, with propane fuel as a backup.

The proposal would switch the entire campus over to a biomass-fired energy system and create a district beyond Sunmount where the energy would be distributed as well. The nearby L.P. Quinn Elementary School and The Wild Center natural history museum, as well as residents in the area, are listed as those who could potentially be hooked up to the district.

The village has applied to the North Country Regional Economic Development Council for $300,000 to conduct a feasibility study to see if the project could become a reality.

According to the application, it would be one of the first biomass-fired modern district energy systems in the United States.

The application estimates the construction and installation of a biomass-fired facility and a hot water conversion substation would cost about $6.6 million. The biomass-fired plant would be located close to the existing Sunmount boiler plant and would supply steam to the existing steam header of the Sunmount complex.

It would retain energy dollars in the region, since it would use wood chips supplied by local loggers, and would enhance economic development and job creation, the application reads.

The plan would also reduce energy expenditures for customers and retain jobs at Sunmount. The large complex located on the corner of Park Street and Hosley Avenue supplies 1,700 jobs to the area Sunmount covers with an $80 million payroll.

"Retention of these jobs is vital to the village," the application reads.

The project's construction would create 72 job-years (which means 72 jobs for one year - it could be 36 jobs for a two-year period), and 29 additional job-years would be created by the potential savings from the first phase of the project, according to the application.

Part of the study would look at how green the project would be, but initial estimates show the project resulting in 18.54 million pounds per year in greenhouse gas reduction. The state and other customers of the project could save an estimated $900,000 a year in energy costs if the project comes to fruition.

The application proposes a one-year process of studying the idea and getting it close to the point of implementation.

The engineering work would be performed by Joseph Technology Corporation, an engineering firm based in New Jersey with much experience in the area. Ishai Oliker would head up the study for JTC.

Oliker told village Mayor Paul Maroun the feasibility study wouldn't cost the village any money but would require in-kind contributions. Those could likely be fulfilled through the village's input into the study. Maroun is set to chair a working group that would help with the study and with planning to implement it in the future.

Applications for money from the NCREDC were submitted in July and are currently being evaluated. They are scored on a 100-point system, with 20 of those points decided by the NCREDC and 80 decided by the relevant state agency that would give money to the project.

Council members have scored the applications, but the scores still need to be affirmed by the full council, according to an email from NCREDC Co-Chairman Garry Douglas. David Tomberlin, Tupper Lake's representative on the NCREDC, wouldn't have had a hand in scoring the Sunmount application, since public officials and council members who have a conflict of interest with an application do not score those applications. Tomberlin is both a Tupper Lake town board member and named in the application as someone who would participate in the working group as head of the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce.

Douglas told the Enterprise in an email Tuesday that he isn't able to comment on pending applications or proposals.

According to the application, the project would meet a number of priorities in the NCREDC's plan for 2012, including creating the greenest energy economy in the state and maximizing North Country utilization of energy-efficient resources to reduce total housing and energy costs.

This is the second time the village has proposed the idea of switching Sunmount to biomass-powered energy. The first time, Oliker was involved in putting together a study the village commissioned through the New York Power Authority, but nothing ever came of that.

Maroun said he believes state officials were distracted by other things going on at that point, but he thinks the plan has a potential for succeeding this time.

"The last commissioner (of the state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities) ... wasn't excited about it," Maroun said. "This governor and this commissioner want to hear about it."

Maroun said last time there were some security issues and issues with changing valves to fit the new system, but he thinks those challenges can be overcome.



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