The construction work on the Biomass Heating Project at the Boulder County Jail has commenced. This boiler is one of the many energy efficiency improvements that have been implemented at the Boulder Jail.
These initiatives have been progressing after receiving approval from the voters for the County Issue 1C in 2009. Currently, workers are constructing the building that would enclose the biomass boiler. When the boiler starts operations, it would burn around 800 tons of woody matter annually, producing adequate heating for the jail that houses 450 people on an average daily. According to Ron Diederichsen, the Project Coordinator for the county, the boiler would be able to heat up the entire building. However, a gas-fired boiler would also be provided as a back up system for days when additional heat is required, especially in the cold month of February.
The county was allowed to borrow $6.1 million through the sale of Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds. The bonds are interest free and the raised capital was used by the county to upgrade the jail’s lighting system, add PV panels and an insulated roof. The wood would be provided from local trees thinned from the county’s forested open space spanning 30,000 acres. According to the Resource Management Manager Therese Glowacki, Longmont’s Boulder County Parks and Open Space structure have already been heated with an identical burner.
Every year, an area of 150-200 acres is thinned, producing 10 tons of wood per acre, totaling 1500 tons. This amount would be adequate for supplying wood to both the open space department and the jail. Also, private landowners have given away quantities of brush and wood at the county-owned sort yard. Glowacki further mentioned that this concept of using biomass burners to heat buildings has been gaining ground in the West and that there were already four units operating in Colorado. A growing awareness among the public that forests in the West need to be thinned regularly as they are abnormally dense may be behind the new interest in these units.