TUPPER LAKE - For the first time in state history, a large-scale institution will be heated with a regionally manufactured, high-efficiency heating system, powered by renewable, locally grown pulp.
The Wild Center Natural History Museum in Tupper Lake unveiled its plan to construct a $400,000, wood pellet burning gasification heating system, which the manufacturer claims can reach efficiency ratings of 90 percent.
The system uses solar arrays in concert with wood pellets to heat water and reduce the need for traditional propane-burning boiler systems.
The system is manufactured by ACT Bioenergy Inc. of Schenectady and, for state and local officials, could be a method to create not only greater environmental sustainability, but also reinvent the sustainable wood harvesting economy of the park.
The Director of the DEC Forest Utilization Program Sloane Crawford said wood burning heating systems make sense for the region as they could serve a three-pronged approach to dealing with energy efficiency, energy independence and local economic viability concerns.
"Community-scale wood energy - by community scale I'm talking municipal buildings, small commercial buildings, things like that - do not use a lot of wood compared to other uses of wood," he said.
Crawford said there are approximately 1 million acres of recognized sustainably-managed woodlands in the state, and over 610,000 in the park.
Over 100 million tons of low-grade pulpwood could be harvested while keeping the growth to harvest ratio at one to one, putting people back to work while feeding a new market, he said.
In 2006, about 170 million cubic feet of lumber was harvested in New York. Roughly 75 million was low-grade pulp, most of which was shipped to paper mills.
Local government officials have long argued that creating working forests is a primary key to a viable Adirondack economy, and Crawford said that new pulpwood markets could be a seminal event for the region.
Program Manager of Environmental Research at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Mark Watson said that there is a push in Albany to use the Adirondacks as a model for future development of an eco-neutral lifestyle.
"I notice that the mission statement for the Wild Center is to ignite an enduring passion for the Adirondacks, where people and nature can thrive together and set an example for the world" he said. "Well here in New York, in the Adirondacks, in Tupper Lake we are certainly setting an example for the world."
NYSERDA officials said that funding is in place for research strategies for sustainability infrastructure for municipalities, schools and non-profits. The next step is funding for implementation of the plans, but at present such money is not accessible.
The planning for the Wild Center was largely funded by $300,000 in NYSERDA grants.
But for Wild Center Executive Director Stephanie Ratcliffe, the program and what it represents for the future of the park is well worth the expense. She said that the museum will continue to push forward research that attempts to better the environment and the quality of life for Adirondack residents.
"A visitor sent us a note recently, thanking us for all the work we have done on climate change and he called us a lab of innovation," she said. "That was quite a compliment, we love the sound of that and that's exactly where the Wild Center wants to be." The museum is currently seeking funding for the implementation of the heating system.
The system will be independently monitored by researchers from Clarkson University to assess its effectiveness and applied efficiency.