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College fires up new biomass generator station

POULTNEY-Green Mountain College formally opened a new $5.8 million combined heat and power biomass plant April 22. In his remarks to 300 students, faculty, staff, and community members, president Paul Fonteyn claimed 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 percent. Special guests at a ribbon-cutting ceremony included Vermont Gov. James Douglas.

The new plant will use locally-sourced woodchips to provide 85 percent of the school's heat and generate 20 percent of its electricity. Fuel oil will be used mainly as a backup to heat campus buildings. GMC officials claim 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 allegedly pay for itself over 18 years through savings on fuel costs.

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 Apollo 12 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. Bean offered students his special perspective on the uniqueness of Earth as seen from the Moon's bleak, airless surface.

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