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Wild Center unveils new eco-friendly heating system

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.

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