• Why a biomass plant
     | February 15,2013

    On Town Meeting Day, Plainfield residents will consider an article about the proposed woodchip heating system that Goddard College is building. As a Goddard trustee, I would like to share with your readers the reasons why the college is proposing this project and why the board has come to believe it is the best choice for upgrading our facilities.

    Goddard’s campus buildings are heated with 22 aging oil burners that need to be replaced. Goddard is committed to upgrading our facilities sustainably, in ways that protect our local environment, support our local economy, and reduce our dependency on foreign oil.

    Like dozens of other Vermont institutions, Goddard has chosen a district biomass heating system to replace its old burners. These systems use a locally harvested, renewable fuel and are considerably more efficient when compared to multiple, smaller heat systems for each building.

    This project has been through a stringent Act 250 review process and public forums, and it has obtained all relevant state and local permits. The Agency of Natural Resources has determined that the plant does not require a pollution control permit due to its small size. Goddard is also voluntarily installing an electrostatic precipitator (ESP), to further reduce emissions and ensure we operate the cleanest facility possible.

    As residents of Plainfield prepare to vote on this issue at town meeting, I urge them to consider that biomass systems are far cleaner and more efficient than the woodstoves which heat many Vermonters homes. The entire woodchip plant — which will heat the whole campus — has the equivalent emissions of between 2.2 and 3.9 woodstoves, depending on the type and age of stove. New, modern woodstoves installed in just four Plainfield homes would have higher emissions levels than those from Goddard’s woodchip system.

    Goddard’s sustainability goals are to become carbon-neutral in fuels burned on campus and electricity usage by 2020, to increase energy efficiency and reduce consumption and waste. In drafting this policy, we found in our carbon inventory that 93 percent of our campus-based carbon emissions come from burning heating oil. Similar biomass facilities at other colleges have reduced the use of heating oil by 90 percent per year. This facility is therefore an important step in achieving our goal of carbon neutrality by 2020.

    The woodchip facility is also directly aligned with the sustainability measures in Plainfield’s Town Plan, which encourages investment in local energy sources to keep fuel dollars circulating in our region.

    Vermont has a long tradition of heating with wood and has been a national leader in the implementation of biomass heating systems for institutions, with dozens of other similar biomass systems in use around the state.

    Our proposed system will have the lowest possible emissions levels that modern biomass technology supports, and will be far cleaner and more efficient than the old boilers now in use. We hope voters will support Goddard’s effort to adopt a renewable energy solution that will dramatically reduce our consumption of foreign oil.

    Avram Patt is a Worcester resident, a Goddard College graduate, a member of Goddard’s board of trustees, and a former chair of the Plainfield Select Board.

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