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New Boilers, Big Savings for Minnesota County

August 25, 2010 - 12:00pm


Officials at Sherburne County's Government Center in Minnesota had a problem: the complex's original boilers, installed in 1972, were in desperate need of replacing.

The two boilers were inefficient, labor intensive and well past their life expectancy.  Any upgrades to the system were put on hold as the county tightened its purse strings amid a tough economy.

"We kept asking: 'Can we make these things last one more year?'" says Dave Lucas, Sherburne County's solid waste administrator.

However, hopes for a new set of boilers were revived in April after the county received a $100,000 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The funds will be administered through Minnesota Commerce Department's Office of Energy Security.

"When the grant opportunity came along, it was extremely welcome on our part," Lucas says. "This was needed money to help make this thing extremely cost effective," he adds.

The project costs $301,500, which will be paid back in six years, according to the county.  The Fulton boilers will save Sherburne County thousands of dollars in energy costs per year. "We estimate roughly $33,000 in annual energy savings, which made the county board smile," Lucas jokes.

Sherburne officials approved the project earlier this month and gave Lucas and his team their full backing. "They told me: 'Dave, let's just go for it,'" he says.

Local contractor El-Jay Plumbing & Heating of St. Cloud, Minn., will install the new boilers at the Elk River complex, which takes up about a block and is the hub of all Sherburne County government including the public health department, social services, veteran affairs and the sheriff's office.

Officials aim to have the system in place over the next couple months, just in time to provide warm relief to the center's workers and visitors during Minnesota's frigid winter. "It's a fast timeline," Lucas says.

The new boilers will operate at 91 percent efficiency, about 16 percent higher than the system. In addition to providing energy savings and improved comfort, the new boilers will also help the county, which is part of Minnesota's Metro Energy Policy Coalition, reduce its carbon footprint and help 

"Anytime you have an opportunity to reduce your overall carbon footprint, that's a good thing," Lucas says.  "This project is something that will have a measureable effect."