Somewhat altered to meet the circumstances, results from two grant-funded studies to determine the feasibility of replacing fossil fuel heat with biomass (wood heat) at two Wallowa County locations should be shared with the public later in October.
One study involves the county-owned Cloverleaf Hall complex, in Enterprise, and the second the Enterprise city hall/fire hall building.
Matt King, of Community Solutions Inc. (CSI), the firm that wrote the grant applications and is performing the research, says both studies are 60 percent completed. Working with CSI on both feasibility efforts is Ralph Swinehart of Wallowa Mountain Engineering.
King says early indications from a $9,300 study to deter mine the feasibility of developing an economically viable biomass heat source for Cloverleaf Hall and three other county-owned buildings north of Cloverleaf seem most promising.
The second grant of $9,000 is studying if biomass is an appropriate alternative to the City of Enterprises annual heating bill of about $23,000 for the city hall/fire hall building and library across the street.
King, program coordinator for the for-profit arm of Wallowa Resources who travels around the world to share his energy expertise, says the citys study will provide valuable information, but likely not generate prompt action. That, he says, is because of the City of Enterprises indefinite plans about constructing a new city hall/fire hall.
Regardless, the city should soon learn details anyway about the option of replacing the oil stove in City Hall there since the early 1960s with a biomass-fueled energy source. A second option would also heat the library along with the city hall/fire hall building.
For the countys grant, however, an earlier plan to include the Les Schwab store north of the county complex in that study has been shelved, King said. Because of the volume of heat now used at the Les Schwab store and the complexity of its delivery systems, the site would require its own biomass heat-producing unit.
CSI, as it does in its working relationship with Wallowa-based Integrated Biomass Resources (IBR), in Wallowa, would work as a partner with either the county, City of Enterprise, or both in that CSI would own the boiler, operation, and possibly a separate building to house its holdings, and then sell heat to the governmental entity.
The owner of IBR, David Schmidt, says the business arrangement works well for him. Having another operation sell heat reduces his infrastructure costs, and using wood as a cost-efficient energy source is the nature of his operation.
King is proposing to fuel biomass boilers with wood pellets. Although pellets are not produced in Wallowa County, their use here pencils out, says King. Wallowa Resources itself imports wood pellets from John Day to fuel the boiler heating the former hospital building that WR calls home.
King contends that heat generated from John Day-produced pellets is half the cost of heat produced from the most affordable fossil fuels, and that the cost margin in favor of pellets only will increase through time.
Schmidt, understandably, is a big proponent of promoting wood as an energy source to resolve local heating issues.
He states, simply enough, that using local fuel, such as firewood, is a positive action because the money stays local.
The business model CSI employs saves a lot of headaches, Schmidt says.