Saint Benedict Center (SBC) is a monastery in the town of Harvard, Massachusetts. The monastery operates a K-12 school, catechism programs, summer camps, a printing press, and a gift shop. The monastery is also serves as a living space for the monks and nuns who teach there. Using grants from MassCEC in collaboration with DOER, they recently installed a woodchip biomass heating plant and a district heating system. This system heats 10 buildings and over 50,000 square feet of space, including the convent, a new gymnasium, and other buildings on both sides of Route 110 (Still River Road).
Prior to the new biomass district heating project, buildings were heated individually with space heaters and boilers using a combination of fuel oil, propane, and cordwood. Completion of this project allows SBC to utilize more efficient biomass energy instead of fossil-fuel based fuel oil and propane systems, or an antiquated cordwood boiler for space and domestic hot water heating. A cordwood boiler uses logs that burn less efficiently than the wood chips that are the feedstock for woodchip biomass boilers.
The system allows Saint Benedict Center to decrease operating costs, cut cordwood consumption, use wood resources from their own property and the local community, eliminate the use of thousands of gallons of oil and propane each year, and improve local air quality while reducing carbon emissions.
This project was made possible by a collaborative effort between MassCEC and DOER, which provided $699,000 in grant funding to Saint Benedict Center to install the biomass boiler which connects to a district heating system. The total project cost was $1.1 million.
Although it was completed with the assistance of various contractors, a large portion of the work was done by the brothers of the monastery, who all have construction experience and have built many of the other buildings on-site. The monastery plans to utilize the forestry resources on their property as well as donations from local companies and the utilities’ trimmings to create the locally-sourced fuel for the boiler. They built a covered bulk storage facility and plan to create their own woodchips on-site and maintain dry chips via natural ventilation in the storage building- the drier the chip, the cleaner the burn!
Read more about this project in the Nashoba Valley Voice. Learn more about MassCEC’s Modern Wood Heating program here.