The Colgate Scene
March 2005

Steam kettle
Heating plant uses a renewable resource

Preventive Maintenance Journeyperson Bob Thomas races around in a Bobcat unloading wood chips. The heating plant receives at least nineteen 30-ton loads per week.
"Think of this place as a big tea kettle with a tube attached to the spout," said Heating Plant Journeyperson Ray Corbin, a 20-year veteran of the facility. "The fire heats the water, and then the steam goes out to the buildings."

Housed in a small building behind Huntington Gymnasium, the wood-fired boiler satisfies 75 percent of Colgate's annual heat and hot water needs through a system of underground pipes. It burns hardwood chips made from tree waste and tree tops from logging sites around central New York. (The other 25 percent is produced by an oil burner.)

Installed during the oil crisis in the early 1980s, the boiler's firebox consumes 80 tons of chips per day. It would take 5,000 gallons of oil to produce the same amount of steam, and unlike oil, wood releases minimal sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere when burned.

Times and perceptions have changed. "Twenty years ago, we used to get `Tree Killers' signs put on our doors," Corbin explained. "Now we get environmental classes wanting to tour, [because] we use a renewable energy source. Trees will always grow."

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