First Woodchip Gasification Plant Installed in a Public School

The Hartford Central School District will save up to 70 percent of fuel oil costs in a single heating season with woodchip gasification technology

Hartford Central School District’s new alternative energy plant is the first public school in New York State to implement woodchip gasification technology to heat district facilities.

The Hartford Central School District will save up to 70 percent of fuel oil costs in a single heating season. By burning woodchips purchased close to home instead of foreign fossil fuels, the district will reduce its carbon footprint and support the local economy. In addition, local farmers will use the system’s byproduct – called potash – for fertilizer.

The district will create hands-on curriculum that educates students about the environmental impact of renewable, alternative energy and motivates them to think in terms of solutions.

Albany, NY-based CSArch Architecture|Construction Management designed the 2,000-square-foot alternative energy plant, which is located adjacent to the 84,330-square-foot K-12 school. The new building features expansive windows on three sides that will allow students and the community to visualize how the system works. Within the plant, wood chips travel by way of an auger from a fuel bunker into a gasifier where they’re heated to extremely high temperatures, ignite, and create gas. The gas is burned in a standard boiler to produce hot water, which is distributed throughout the school’s hot water heating system. The system can operate at part or full capacity, depending on heating demand. The district estimates that the plant will burn 1,600 tons of locally sourced woodchips in its first year of operation.

The school district expects to generate long-term cost savings as a result of the alternative energy plant. Two years ago, the district paid $150,000 for oil. Chips to provide the same heat would have cost $45,000. The alternative energy plant’s 12-ton steel boiler generates enough heat to serve the entire school, as well as a technology building on the campus.