POULTNEY-Green Mountain College's new biomass plant officially goes online April 22. Vermont Gov. James Douglas will cut the ribbon on Earth Day, an event recognized by environmental activists, to mark the official opening of the plant at a 10:30 a.m. ceremony.
Instead of burning fossil fuel oil, the new combined heat and power biomass plant will burn woodchips; it is claimed to provide 85 percent of the school's heat and generate 20 percent of its electricity.
Number six fuel oil will now be used mainly as a backup to heat campus buildings.
GMC officials estimate it will burn about 4,000-5,000 tons of locally harvested woodchips each year as the primary fuel-despite recent reports of low inventories of the renewable resource in Vermont.
College officials claim net greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources on campus will be reduced from 2007 levels of 3,420 metric tons to 546 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year. Officials also claim the $5.8 million plant will pay for itself over 18 years through savings on fuel costs.
Only a handful of colleges across the country have claimed complete "climate neutrality", largely through purchasing of controversial carbon credits; however, factors often ignored is the exhalation of carbon dioxide by faculty, staff and students and autos on campus. Enthusiastic claims of carbon and climate neutrality are frequently cited as hyperbole by global-warming skeptics.
It should be noted that increased truck transports to the campus, carrying woodchips to the power plant, will likely negate some of the claimed carbon offsets, as was the case with claims by Middlebury College officials about their new campus biomass plant.
Green Mountain College officials also claim that their's will be the first higher education institution in the nation to be "climate neutral" by 2011 after having reduced its own emissions by over 50 percent.