Wood: the Once and Future Fuel for Vets

New York VA facility breaks ground for new biomass steam generation system by Lockheed Martin


file Lockheed Martin and Whiting Turner recently broke ground for an innovative biomass steam generation system for a VA facility in upstate New York that will use wood chips and bark to generate energy.

Throughout history, soldiers treasured wood as one of their most valuable resources. In their fight to ward off the cold, armies commandeered trees, fence posts, furniture and anything else they could burn to keep warm.

Today, it seems only fitting that the Canandaigua Veterans Affairs Medical Center in upstate New York is once again turning to wood for heat. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently joined with Lockheed Martin and Whiting-Turner to break ground for an innovative biomass steam generation system that is a far cry from the camp fires used to help soldiers.

The automated system burns wood chips and bark salvaged from the sawmill operations of local lumberyards and logging companies to generate clean, steam-powered energy to help heat and cool the facility. It is modeled after a similar one used by Lockheed Martin’s facility in nearby Owego, N.Y.

The boilers’ computer-controlled gasification technology generates high efficiency and low emissions. The process will lower the facility’s energy costs, while reducing its carbon footprint. The VA anticipates saving anywhere from $650,000 to $850,000 a year, said Dan Ryan, the center’s public affairs officer. The biomass system will replace a steam boiler that runs on natural gas or diesel fuel. MS2 will build, install and test the equipment, as well as train the VA on how to maintain the system. Whiting-Turner will provide onsite construction leadership and work with the VA to integrate the biomass system.

Lockheed Martin’s Owego facility originally developed the system to reduce its own fuel use. The VA’s biomass system has the same configuration as Owego’s but will be smaller. By switching from fuel oil to wood chips, Owego has reduced its heating and cooling bills by half, saving approximately $1 million in fuel costs annually.


Speaking of the Future: Energy