Yesterday Green Mountain College in Vermont opened its own on campus biomass plant. The $5.8 million dollar plant will be providing heat and power to the campus and is part of Green Mountain College’s plan to become the first carbon neutral college in the country.
Green Mountain College’s biomass facility has a projected payback period of 18 years. The 400 horsepower combined heat and power (CHP) plant will heat the 155 acres of campus buildings while providing 20 percent (400,000 kw) of the colleges power.
The plant will allow the college to reduce its reliance on fuel oil by 85 percent so that only 40,700 gallons of fuel oil are used instead of the previous 230,000 gallons. Instead the college will be using 4,000 – 5,000 tons of locally sourced woodchips. Using the biomass instead of oil will also lower the campuses GHGs from 3,420 metric tons down to 546 metric tons, an 84 percent reduction.
The biomass idea was generated from a 2005 freshman seminar that addressed peak oil. The students wrote a proposal for the plant and the resultant study showed that it would provide significant reductions in CO2 emissions and impressive savings on energy. Amazingly, the biomass plant was implemented in only five years.
The college has a Student Campus Greening Fund to which every student contributes $30 of their activity fee. The fund is a student run program that puts green initiatives into action. As part of that program students submit proposals that all of the students vote on.
One of the proposals that will be implemented is a “Building Dashboard”. The proposal calls for installing “live energy streaming modules on the new biomass facility and two residence halls.” There will also be a an interactive display kiosk that will allow the college community to obtain data on campus energy consumption.
Paul Fonteyn, the college president, said that Green Mountain College would be carbon neutral by next year since the biomass plant will help the college to reduce its C02 output by over 50 percent.
The students at Green Mountain College are actively involved in making sure that their college is implementing the best green technology and initiatives. Best of all the college implements the ideas as rapidly as possible making this one of the most environmentally active colleges in the country.