BAMBERG, Germany, Sept. 23, 2011 -- Bamberg opened the Army's first biomass heating system in Europe Sept. 14 in an effort to transition to more sustainable, renewable energy resources.

Two new wood-chip heating systems will heat water for buildings near Muna depot, which will cut operating costs, reduce dependency on oil and shrink carbon dioxide emissions.

"This not only saves us money but addresses both U.S. and German goals for energy conservation and reduction of greenhouse gases," said Lt. Col. Steven L. Morris, U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg commander. "This new boiler will pay for itself in three years while making the environment cleaner for us and our children for years to come."

The old boilers needed to be replaced and an emphasis was placed on moving to renewable energy equipment; biomass was the answer. Biomass is organic material made from plants and animals, and the most common form of biomass fuel is wood, according to Energy Information Administration website.

Stadtwerke Bamberg, the city's public transportation, gas, water and power company, helped the garrison by bringing in their expertise to assist with the project. Stadtwerke Bamberg is using a similar biomass system for their new spa resort Bambados, which opens in November.

"I am very happy that we were able to successfully put a joint venture into action within the shortest period of time and that we were able to contribute to the acceleration of the energy transformation in Bamberg with this new heating plant," said Klaus Rubach, director of Stadtwerke Bamberg. "You are one of our most distinguished customers and one of the most important partners in furthering the local pollution control -- not only for us, but also for the city of Bamberg."

Big and small furnaces will be used to run the system more efficiently. The small one is used during the summer because it uses less energy and the larger one will be used during the winter when more heat is needed. Operating the large burner, using 20 percent of its capacity, is less efficient than using a smaller one running at a higher percent capacity. Having two systems also provides a backup system in the event that one needs maintenance or breaks.

More electricity is needed to run the heating system, but the costs for the renewable fuel will be less, which will make the project's overall cost lower.

Stadtwerke provides electricity to run the biomass system and will monitor operations of the equipment remotely from its headquarters. The system also has meters that will allow experts to measure operational cost savings.

Biomass is considered CO2 neutral because it emits the amount of CO2 that would be gathered in the lifetime of the wood. The combustion of fossil fuels take carbons locked beneath the ground, such as crude oil and gas, and releases carbons into the atmosphere, which is not part of the natural carbon cycle.