Green Mountain College Opens $5.8 Million Biomass Project on Earth Day

Apr 22, 2010, 17:21 ET from Green Mountain College

POULTNEY, Vt., April 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Green Mountain College formally opened a new $5.8 million combined heat and power (CHP) biomass plant this morning. In his remarks to about 300 students, faculty, staff, and community members, president Paul Fonteyn declared that by next year GMC would become the first college in the country to reach carbon neutrality after reducing carbon emissions by more than 50%. Special guests at a 10:30 a.m. ceremony included Vermont Governor James Douglas.

"This new structure -- our new biomass plant -- is more than just a facility to provide heat and electricity. It's a demonstration of how we are remaining faithful to our principles of sustainability, and maintaining our position as one of the leading environmental liberal arts colleges in the country," Fonteyn said.

The new plant will use locally-sourced woodchips to provide 85% of the school's heat and generate 20% of its electricity. Fuel oil will 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.

"This biomass plant is proof that we have the means and the technology to move towards a sustainable future," said student Todd Martin '10, who spoke at the ceremony. "Here in Vermont, we are grateful to have abundant forests that, if sustainably maintained and managed, can provide a renewable energy alternative to oil and coal for our electricity and heat production."

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. 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.

Another guest of the College for Earth Day activities was astronaut and artist Alan Bean, who delivered the College's third annual Thomas L. Benson Lecture. During NASA's Apollo 12 mission in November 1969, Bean became the fourth man to set foot on the moon. Later he launched a career as a painter chronicling the story of the Apollo program. As one of only 12 people to see earth from the vantage point of the lunar surface, Bean had a special perspective on the fragility of the earth's environment.

"When I was on the moon I looked back there and I said 'You know, that whole place is the Garden of Eden -- that whole place is paradise," he said. "We have been given the Garden of Eden to spend our whole lives. We need to think about that. I like the fact that you are trying to preserve the Garden of Eden."

Bean was presented with an honorary doctor of fine arts degree prior to his address. The Benson Lecture Series, named in honor of former Green Mountain College President Thomas L. Benson, aims to bring visionary speakers of national and international significance to the College campus. Benson was president from 1994-2002 and was the architect of the College's environmental liberal arts mission.

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SOURCE Green Mountain College