Construction is now complete on the air conditioning/heating system at Gainesville Jr./Sr. High School. For the first time in the history of the school all areas including the gym are cool.

Gainesville R-V School District received a grant of $970,000 toward the construction of a woody biomass boiler project.  This grant goes toward the cost of the boiler system that will heat and cool the entire JH/SR school campus.  This innovative technology is fully automated and uses the best available industry standards for air quality and efficiency. 


Click on the attachments below for pictures of the technology. The "General Information" link has a question and answer section.


Q: Doesn't wood burning involve a lot of labor?

A: In an automated wood-chip system, the operator never handles the fuel. The wood chips are loaded into the bin automatically, and the fuel is handled by completely automated equipment in the building.

Q: Isn't wood a dirty fuel that will make a mess at our building?

A: The wood chips are stored in a closed bin and burned in a boiler room, in a sealed combustion chamber. They never get out onto the grounds or into the rest of the building.

Q: Isn't there a danger that a large store of wood chips will catch fire?

A: Green wood chips are close to half water by weight, and it is next to impossible to set them on fire outside the controlled conditions of the combustion chamber.

Q: Will big trucks be coming and going every day?

A: Depending on the season and the size of the building, chip deliveries might be as infrequent as one truckload every two months, or as frequent as two loads per week.

Q: Is a wood-chip system noisy?

A: The building occupants usually never hear the wood-chip system unless they go into the boiler room.

Commonly Asked Questions About the Technology

Q: Why should we experiment with an unfamiliar technology?

A: Burning wood chips and other forms of biomass for heat has been common in the wood products industry for decades. In the last 25 years, wood-chip systems have been successfully installed in hundreds of buildings, including schools, hospitals, government facilities, greenhouses, commercial buildings, hotels, and motels. The technology is well-proven, and there are a number of manufacturers with successful track records.

Commonly Asked Questions about Air Quality, Aesthetics, and the Environment

Q: Won't the system make our building look like a sawmill or a factory?

A: With careful attention to design, the wood-chip system will blend in with the building. The casual observer won't know it is there.

Q: Will the wood smoke be an air quality problem?

A: Automated, commercial-sized wood-chip systems burn much cleaner than the most modern home wood or pellet stove. They produce no creosote and practically no visual smoke or odor. In most cases, institutional wood-chip systems easily meet state air quality standards.

Q: Will the system produce airborne wood ash that will fall over the neighborhood?

A: No. This has not been reported as a problem in the neighborhoods of institutional and commercial wood-chip burners.

Q: Are the wood ashes toxic? Where and how are they disposed?

A: Wood ash from institutional and commercial heating plants is not toxic. In fact, it is an excellent soil additive for agriculture use. It can safely be put on gardens or lawns.

Q: Burning wood creates carbon dioxide. Won't that cause global warming?

A: All fuels contain carbon and create carbon dioxide when they are burned. Unlike the burning of fossil fuels, when wood is burned CO2 in the exhaust is off-set by CO2 absorbed from the atmosphere by living trees. As long as sustainable forestry practices are used when harvesting the trees, there is no long-term increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from burning wood. If a gas or oil heating system is converted to wood, net CO2 emissions are reduced by 75-90 percent, depending upon how much of the fossil fuel is displaced. For this reason heating with wood is a powerful tool for a community interested in meaningfully addressing climate change and renewable energy through its energy use.

Q: Will wood smoke cause acid rain?

A: The major sources of acid rain are sulfur dioxide and nitrogen compounds in combustion reactions (known as SOx and NOx). Unlike fossil fuels, wood has practically no sulfur and so produces virtually no SOx when it burns. Wood combustion does create NOx, but at levels comparable to fossil fuel combustion.

Q: Aren't oil and natural gas so cheap that it doesn't make sense to burn wood?

A: This is not true for wood chips. Wood chips generally cost less than half as much as natural gas and no. 2 fuel oil. Most dollars spent on oil and gas leave Missouri, while wood dollars stay in the state economy, creating an additional economic benefit.

Q: If everybody starts burning wood chips, won't the price go up sharply?

A: The price of all fuels can be expected to go up over time. However, wood-chip prices are not directly connected to the world energy market. Wood is also a locally produced renewable fuel. For these reasons, it can be expected to increase less in price than other fuels. Wood prices paid by schools have increased gradually at about 1% a year over the last fifteen years.

Q: Is there enough wood to heat this facility in the long term?

A: Missouri has a large excess capacity of biomass available now, with an even larger reserve of unmanaged woodland that could be tapped on a renewable basis for energy production. Forestry officials in Missouri are looking for new markets for low-grade wood wastes from the forest, as a way to remove cull trees and improve forest health. Fossil fuels will eventually run out, but with proper forestry practices, the biomass resource base can be sustained indefinitely.