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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

$2.5 million available in grants for Fuels for Schools and Communities

From a media release issued by Focus on Energy:

MADISON, Wis. (Dec. 8, 2008) - Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's energy efficiency and renewable energy initiative, announced today the inception of a new renewable energy program called Fuels for Schools & Communities. The new program is meant to help Wisconsin schools and communities save hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs by switching from natural gas to heating their buildings with wood or other biomass.

"Schools and local governments today are feeling squeezed by energy prices. This new program will allow interested school districts and local governments, especially in the north and southwest portions of the state, the ability to adopt biomass technology as a cost effective and environmentally responsible solution to increasing energy costs," said Don Wichert, director for Focus on Energy's Renewable Energy Program.

The new program offers interested schools and communities pre-feasibility studies and feasibility studies at no cost and up to $250,000 toward the implementation of a biomass system. The program complements Clean Energy Wisconsin, Governor Doyle's strategy to strengthen Wisconsin's energy future. This comprehensive plan moves Wisconsin forward by promoting renewable energy, creating new jobs, increasing energy security and efficiency and improving the environment.

A recent study funded by Focus on Energy and conducted by the Biomass Energy Resource Center (BERC), "Heating with Biomass: A Feasibility Study of Wisconsin Schools Heated with Wood," found that as many as 25 percent of Wisconsin schools could save hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs by switching from natural gas to heating their buildings with wood, or other biomass. Biomass, a renewable resource, typically consists of clean wood chips, wood pellets, switchgrass or other agricultural based pellets. This is a significant finding considering Wisconsin schools spend close to $200 million a year on energy costs.

The study concludes that the annual energy costs from wood biomass systems could be 29 percent to 57 percent less expensive than natural gas and save schools between $53,000 and $75,000 annually, depending on current fuel prices. The study included case studies from Barron, Hayward, Shell Lake and Rice Lake, Wis., high schools.

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