[NEWS] Northern Michigan University Explains Why Biomass Heating Facility Is Idle

– by Julie Williams, February 8, 2018, WLUC


Photo: Julie Williams / WLUC

The Ripley plant at Northern Michigan University supplies steam to most of campus and plays a critical part in keeping Northern and its students comfortable.

“We provide all of the heat to all the buildings that don’t have their own boilers and it heats water, it heats air and also provides some steam for humidification,” said Gisele Duehring, Associate Director of Facilities.

Ripley expanded with a biomass plant in 2012 and 2013 that cost roughly 16 million dollars but right now it is not being used.

“Wo we have to be good stewards of the tax payers money and tuition,” said Duehring. We do go ahead and forecast what we’re going to need for fuel and then we are constantly looking at the fuel markets.”

While it may not seem cost effective to build a facility and then not use it, the plant says that that is actually the best option for right now.

“With the natural gas reserves that they’re finding and the techniques that they’re finding now natural gas prices have dropped quite a bit,” said Greg Shirtz, Boiler Operator and Controls Technician at Ripley. “It was economically prohibitive to keep getting wood in when you could burn the gas at such a lower cost and that all goes back to the state and then eventually the tax payers not having to pay as much for our fuel.”


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