NMU utilizes biomass fuel

The newest addition to Northern Michigan University’s Ripley Heating Plant is now up and running. The biomass unit officially began supplying campus with steam to help heat and cool buildings at the start of the month. The new unit gives NMU a second option when it comes to the fuel it uses to create steam. It’s also capable of meeting 87% of thermal needs on campus.

“Our other units where we generated steam are fired by natural gas with fuel oil backup,” Northern Michigan University Associate Director of Facilities and the Heating Plan Gisele Duehring said. “And this gives us fuel flexibility since we firing this completely with biomass chips, woodchips from the area. It’s also good for supporting the local economy since all the fuel is produced locally.”

Over the next few weeks the biomass portion of the plant will be put through its paces to make sure it is ready to go by the time students arrive on campus later this month.

“The guys, the operators here had training earlier this summer,” added Duehring. “And school does start I think August 26, but this is giving us sometime to work with our fuel supply, make sure that we’ve got valving and controls working well.”

Right now the plant receives about two truckloads of fuel per day but they expect that number to rise to six or seven loads by winter.