Sanderson Academy in Ashfield to heat school with biomass thanks to $171K state grant

Sanderson academy will heat with woody biomass, thanks to a state grant.


Sanderson academy will heat with woody biomass, thanks to a state grant. (Mohawk School District)
By Mary Serreze | Special to The Republican on December 29, 2015 at 10:00 AM, updated December 29, 2015 at 10:01 AM
A public elementary school in Ashfield will convert its existing oil heating system to biomass boilers, with help from a $171,598 grant from the state's Dept. of Energy Resources.

The conversion will save Sanderson Academy thousands of dollars every year, and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, said Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton in announcing the grant Dec. 23.

Other rural elementary schools including those in Heath and Charlemont won similar grants this year.

Biomass heating systems "allow home and business owners to reduce their dependence on costly, environmentally-damaging and unhealthy fossil fuels, instead using a renewable energy source indigenous to Massachusetts," according to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.

The grant was awarded through a program called SAPHIRE that promotes renewable thermal heating and cooling upgrades in Massachusetts schools and public housing. The program is administered by the Dept. of Energy Resources in collaboration with the Massachusetts School Buildings Authority.

"By transitioning to clean, renewable energy, Sanderson Academy is leading the way and redirecting energy savings back into the classroom," said Sen. Ben Downing, D-Pittsfield.

Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, said the grant "will help the town reduce its carbon footprint, and support local jobs in the wood energy field as well as good forest management practices."

The school-based systems would generate heat, not electricity, making them far more efficient than the controversial biomass power plants.

study commissioned by the state Dept. of Energy Resources in 2009 concluded that biomass power plants, which burn wood to make electricity, can have a higher carbon footprint than coal plants. As a result, tough new efficiency standards were instituted for biomass plants in Massachusetts that wish to qualify for green energy subsidies.