Vermont College Installs 4000-Ton Biomass Plant

According to Green Mountain College’s (GMC) official history, students living in the school’s original academy building in 1837 were warmed by wood-burning stoves. Each student was responsible for toting wood up the stairs to his room in the evening, and each was required to keep a pail of sand nearby in the event of a fire.

Nearly two centuries later, campus buildings will again be heated with wood, this time using a decidedly different technology.

“This is a great day in our history but it is also a great day for Vermont, and for all who are committed to finding solutions to a cleaner energy future,” said GMC president Paul Fonteyn.

The new combined heat and power (CHP) biomass plant will burn woodchips, and is projected to provide 85% of the school’s heat and generate 20% of its electricity. Number six fuel oil will now be used mainly as a backup to heat campus buildings. GMC estimates it will burn about 4,000-5,000 tons of locally harvested woodchips each year as the primary fuel. The $5.8 million plant will pay for itself over eighteen years through savings on fuel costs.

In the new plant, woodchips are fed into a boiler and heated at a very high temperature with low oxygen, until the fuel smolders and emits gas. On the back side of boiler, oxygen is added and the gas ignites—the resulting steam is circulated through existing pipes for heat and hot water. The steam also activates a turbine which will produce 400,000 kWh of electricity.

More small-scale renewable energy projects like this are expected to be developed in Vermont in the coming months as the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund Board announced that the Clean Energy Development Fund (CEDF) has made available $5.5 million to support the installation of solar and small wind projects on homes and businesses across Vermont. The funds are part of the Dept. of Energy’s State Energy Program funds provided by the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The US $5.5 million will allow Vermont to continue to the Small Scale Renewable Energy Incentive Program that was first established in 2003. The program ran out of State funding in 2009. The newly funded and expanded program will begin to take incentive reservations tomorrow, April
22ed – Earth Day.

“This incentive program has been the foundation for building the renewable energy industry in Vermont.” said CEDF Board co-chair Robert Dostis. “We are excited to put these funds to work helping to stimulate the economy, create jobs and reduce energy costs for Vermonters.

The Incentive program will be administered by the Renewable Energy Resource Center a project of the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC). The CEDF was created by the Legislature in 2005 to increase the development of renewable energy and combined heat and power technologies. In 2009, the fund received $31.5 million from the federal government under ARRA.

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