PLAINFIELD — Goddard College cut the ribbon on its new woodchip heating plant Wednesday and an advocacy group released a report looking at increasing the state’s wood heating by 2030.
The $2.5 million plant provides heat and hot water for seven buildings on the main campus, 12 buildings in the Village of Learning, and the college library. The project was funded by a $2.1 million loan from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development which will be repaid over 40 years.
The plant replaces 23 oil-burning heaters.
Andrew Perchlik, director of the Clean Energy Development Fund, said his organization got involved years ago and helped to fund a feasibility study looking at building the plant at Goddard. Perchlik said the organization was looking for projects to invest in for the local wood-heating industry.
“We’re psyched about this project. We think it’s going to be a great project for other colleges in the state and any other campus-style collection of buildings. … We’re hoping that this is going to be the first of many plants in the state,” he said.
A news release for the ribbon cutting said the plant “represents a significant milestone in the college’s plans to reduce energy use and carbon pollution with a goal to become carbon neutral in fuels burned on campus and electricity usage by 2020.”
Bernard Bull, Goddard’s president, said one of the core convictions for the school when it was founded in the 1930s was that life and learning are not separate. Bull said education should be a blending of the interest of the learner and the realities of the world.
“When those realities fall short, we’re called to co-create a better, more hopeful, more humane and more sustainable world. And this is one solid, real-world example of Goddard living out that mission,” he said.
Adam Sherman, senior consultant with the Biomass Energy Resource Center, announced the roadmap dealing with increasing wood heating in Vermont. The report was produced by BCRC and Renewable Energy Vermont. It was funded by the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Fund.
Sherman said the state is an international leader when it comes to advanced wood heating on campuses and homes.
“But there’s an opportunity to go a lot further and meet our renewable energy, economic development and working landscape objectives here in Vermont. In Vermont, we consume about 100 million gallons of heating oil annually to heat our buildings and homes. That dependency on fossil fuels creates high greenhouse gas emissions and hamstrings our local economy,” he said.
The report set a goal of reaching 35 percent of the state’s thermal energy coming from wood heating by 2030. It picked 35 percent because that’s the level advocates believe can be sustained by the state’s forests.
According to the report, to reach this goal the state needs to install pellet stoves in about 30 percent of all single-family homes, bulk pellet fueled boilers in about 16 percent of all single-family homes with centralized hydronic heat-distribution networks, pellet boilers in 6 percent of small commercial buildings and woodchip boilers in 6 percent of larger commercial/institutional buildings.
If the state meets this goal, according to the report, it would reduce the state’s consumption of heating oil and propane by 60 percent, replace or add another 900,000 green tons of annual local market demand for low-grade wood in Vermont, avoid $112 million in annual energy expenditures exported from the Vermont economy and avoid 350,000 tons of net greenhouse gas emissions annually.