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Pullen Hall Renovation Project to include new solar, biomass systems

The University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Pullen Hall soon will have a much smaller carbon footprint thanks to a $2.3 million building renovation project that includes the installation of solar panels on the roof, a biomass boiler system in the basement and many energy efficiencies in between.

Work is expected to begin later this spring on the Pullen Hall Renovation Project after UMPI officials announced this week that A&L Construction of Presque Isle has been awarded the bid as general contractor.

In addition to the two major sustainable energy systems, crews will be installing energy efficient windows, improving ADA accessibility, updating the aging heating and ventilation system, and adding temperature control in Pullen Hall, one of the University’s two major classroom buildings. A similar renovation project was done in 2008 to the adjoining classroom building, Folsom Hall.

“We are so pleased that this renovation project is allowing us to complete the second half of an effort that began in 2008 to significantly update the Pullen-Folsom complex. These improvements to our major classroom space are going to create a much better learning environment for our students,” UMPI President Don Zillman said. “In addition, this effort solidly diversifies our renewable energy projects on campus with benefit to our carbon reduction commitment, our educational programs, and our community service opportunities.”

A&L construction will take the lead on most of the efforts to rehabilitate the 19,500-square-foot building, including replacing all windows and entrance doors; installing new insulation, ceilings and floors, upgrading a public bathroom; and updating the building’s facade to give it a more modern look. The project also will include the installation of energy saving lights with motion sensor technology; a new heating system including heat pump technology; a new electrical system; 99 solar photovoltaic panels on the roof, which will generate some of the electricity needed for Pullen operations; and a new wood burning (bio-mass) boiler to replace the two original oil-fired boilers, which are more than 40 years old.

Patrick St. Peter and Sons of Caribou is serving as the mechanical sub-contractor on these efforts; the company will take care of all the plumbing, air conditioning and heating issues. County Electric Inc. of Caribou is the electrical sub-contractor and will handle all of the wiring, outlets, lighting, switches, and the connections for the solar panels.

UMPI’s wood to energy project – installing the biomass boiler system – has been contracted to Thayer Corporation of Auburn. The company will install the new boiler, a commercial-grade hopper to store the wood pellets that the boiler uses, the system for ash removal, and a new chimney lining.

About three-quarters of the cost of the Pullen Hall Renovation Project is being covered through external funding sources. Without the funding, the University could not have moved forward on this project, according to officials.

Last fall, the University received a Department of Conservation Maine Forest Service wood-to-energy grant for $750,000, which is funding the installation of the new biomass boiler system as well as a changeover of the distribution system in Pullen Hall from steam to hot water. According to David St. Peter, Director of Physical Facilities, the changeover will result in a much more quiet and efficient heating system.

“When you try to heat a building with steam, it goes into the distribution system and makes a lot of noise, and there are a lot more components you need because the steam eventually turns back into water,” St. Peter said. “Hot water is a much simpler system and easier to manage. It’s going to be quieter for our educational environment.”

The University also received $800,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the Fiscal Year 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill for its solar project. Officials are using that money for the solar panel installation, electrical components, the distribution system and data collection efforts. An automated weather station will be set up to collect information on solar radiation levels and will provide needed baseline data for the future use of solar energy. This information will be utilized by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.

The University received a third source of funding to help pay for this project – $475,000 in state bond money. This funding, from a 2008 statewide ballot for a variety of public building construction projects, received support from 55 percent of County voters. The balance of the project cost will be covered through internal funds.

“This is such an important investment and we’re very excited to bring these innovations together in one space right here in northern Maine,” President Zillman said. “Not only will it provide the opportunity for student research and allow the campus to serve as a regional model for other businesses and schools, but the project also will significantly reduce the carbon footprint of this building through the use of heat pump technology, solar energy, and biomass energy.”

The project is expected to be completed in 90 days, with most of the major renovation work taking place during the summer. Crews will begin work in March. Major construction work will begin on May 6, after classes are done for the semester, and will be completed by Aug. 26.