January 07, 2009

Michigan School Installs Corn Burning Furnace

The Merrill Community Schools of Michigan installed a corn burning furnace to provide heat to the middle school and high school as part of a 2006 construction project that also included installing more efficient lighting. Although initial problems were encountered, the system seems to running properly now.

"We saved $90,000 the first year in electric and gas," said Searles, who conservatively estimates at least $10,000 is attributed to the corn furnace.

At the time that this system was planned and construction first began corn prices were at a low. Since then corn prices have gone from around $2.00 per bushel in early 2006 to hitting a high of almost $8.00 last summer to fall again to a current price of around $4.00. Now that the price has come back down it is again more economical to burn corn than natural gas.

"It seems to be heating well," said Searles. "I'm really happy that we'll be able to begin saving money because the cost of corn has come down significantly."

Corn burning furnaces have been around for some time. I remember seeing one displayed at the county fair at least ten years ago. A quick google search for 'corn stoves' nets several manufacturers of residential corn burning stoves.

And that really brings me to the main point of this post. Corn has for a long time been something that was cheap enough to burn. For all the talk this last year about a food crisis and all the blame heaped on ethanol for taking corn off the food market, the fact that it is cheaper to burn corn than it is to burn natural gas suggests to me that we place a higher value on energy than we do on food.

Source : MLive

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