Shared heat for Tupper Lake could reduce heating bills

TUPPER LAKE – Plans for a new hot water district heating system could reduce heating bills for village residents.

The project, which is being funded by a $300,000 New York State Energy Research and Development Authority Grant, would replace household heating systems with a village-wide boiler, possibly burning woody biomass or some other non-fossil fuel.

“NYSERDA is putting out the money through the North Country Regional Economic Development Council from last year,” said village Mayor Paul Maroun. “It doesn’t cost the village anything.”

The technology works by sending hot water through pipes to heat buildings.

Sy Oliker, a professional engineer with the New Jersey-based Joseph Technology Corporation, the company at the helm of the project, said the technology is popular in Europe and has seen an increase in popularity in China in recent years. The hot-water system is similar to the steam system that was installed in Manhattan about 100 years ago, but it’s more efficient.

“In New York City they supply steam, but when the steam condenses the condensate is dumped into the sewer,” Oliker said. “The condensate is quite corrosive, and you also have a lot of losses. With hot water it’s a closed-loop system, so it goes to the customer and returns to be heated again. It also gives the opportunity to increase the efficiency of the heating source.”

Oliker said the company is considering biomass as an energy source for heating the water. Biomass energy is usually obtained by burning plants. When managed correctly, biomass can be harvested from part of a constatly replenishing crop.

“What we’re talking about is sustainable energy,” Oliker said. “It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the village. When you burn biomass, you are releasing some CO2, but when the biomass grows it absorbs CO2.”

The first step for installing the system in Tupper Lake is to conduct a study to determine the cost and scope of the project. Once that’s complete, the company will establish a main artery for the new system. Oliker hopes the study will begin by mid-February.

“We have a number of ideas on how we will develop this system,” Oliker said. “First, we’ll connect larger buildings, like the school. If the piping goes along the route with smaller customers along the system, particularly customers that have older systems, we are hoping we will be able to offer them substantially reduced costs, too.”

Once the core system is established, businesses and residents could be hooked into it. Oliker said a similar system his company installed in Jamestown has slashed some residents’ heating bills there.

“In Jamestown, we connected four customers,” Oliker said. “Some of them saved 25 to 30 percent of their energy bills. Now, any building you can think of is connected downtown, including newspaper buildings and six churches.”

Oliker said the same thing could happen in Tupper Lake, and added that state grants could help the system continue to expand.

“We are hoping this project will keep moving,” Oliker said. “If the people believe in this technology and they see that people are saving money, we think they’ll want to be hooked up. It could be a very interesting, feasible project for Tupper Lake. Eventually we hope other people, like Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, also follow this example.”