Burning for Power
Two years after The Trammps set fire with the hit song "Disco Inferno" Northwest Missouri State set fire to alternative heating and cooling, a process that's both simple and complicated.
This is how it works, after collecting the school's paper and cardboard, a bobcat stirs it up and dumps it in the grinder. It goes up the hopper where water is added and a few minutes later whaa-laa.. you have pellets, lots of pellets, about two tons per hour.
The final product is a small pellet, and if you burn about a ton of these every hour that would certainly be considered environmentally friendly, but on the other hand they also burn some smaller pellets that didn't come from paper or cardboard, instead it comes from cows.
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to get the picture. Manure takes 2 to 3 months to dry, then it's piled up, and just like the paper and cardboard, it becomes a pellet
And, there's no shortage of cows on the northwest campus, but could it work somewhere else?
Ray Courter, the Vice President of Finance says "of course it could it would take some investment but that investment pays for itself and in our case we re-couped that investment in a few years." 25 years ago, the critics said this pellet idea wouldn't work, but know, they say they don't hear from them anymore.
The school saves about a million dollars a year in heating and cooling costs. On the day of our visit, Teaney isn't burning pellets, he's burning wood chips. Wood chips today, it could be a mixture tomorrow.
"There may not be as many BTU's in the manure pellets as there is in paper even if i could burn 100% I may not want to because I couldn't get the steam," said James Teaney, the Steam Plant Supervisor.
Even though this technology has been around for more than 20 years, northwest is committed to the future.
In fact, this idea didn't exactly solidify at the beginning. Norville Harris, the Pellet Plant Supervisor said "the manure didn't work but we started adding this and that and taking out this."
When asked why other schools, prisons, hospitals, or whatever don't try the same idea, the guys at northwest said there's no incentive. So, until someone like the state comes along and dangles a carrot in front of your face, this type of renewable energy will probably only be used in Maryville.