New! HBRF and Green Mountain College announce woodchip energy project

Green Mountain College and Hubbard Brook Research Foundation seek community-supported supply of biomass energy

January 18, 2011

Green Mountain College (GMC) and the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation (HBRF) are collaborating on a plan called the Poultney Woodshed Project to fuel the College’s new biomass facility from local sources of sustainably harvested woodchips. The $73,658 project is funded by the Rutland Regional Planning Commission (with funds from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program), the High Meadows Fund, the Riverledge Foundation and the Luce Foundation.

The Hubbard Brook Research Foundation (HBRF) is working with GMC to secure woodchips harvested from privately owned forestlands located relatively close to Poultney. If successful, this project will produce carbon savings resulting from lower transportation distances for woodchips and support the local economy by engaging traditional stewards of the forest: landowners, foresters, loggers, chippers and truckers.

On April 22, 2010—the 40th anniversary of the original Earth Day—Green Mountain College inaugurated its new wood biomass co-generation facility in Poultney. The facility provides 85 percent of heat required by the College and 20 percent of its electricity, thus helping fulfill the college’s environmental mission by using renewable biomass energy instead of fossil fuels.

“The biomass project substantially reduces the use of number six fuel oil, which was the College’s main fuel source until this year,” said GMC President Paul Fonteyn. “As much as possible, we want to use woodchips from sustainably harvested local sources, which is environmental friendly and helpful to the local economy.”

The two organizations will recruit private and public partners working cooperatively to determine if biomass harvesting protocols set forth by the Forest Guild are acceptable to local landowners, foresters and loggers; to determine if sustainable harvesting practices can be done cost effectively; and to determine the amount of biomass that GMC can hope to purchase from local landowners over time. The overriding question the Poultney Woodshed Project will answer is this: “Is there a viable market for sustainably harvested, locally sourced woodchips?”

“Hubbard Brook and GMC hope to nurture no less than a community-supported energy enterprise akin to operations spawned by the community-supported agriculture (CSA) movement,” said David Sleeper, executive director of Hubbard Brook Research Foundation. “Our intention is that this new project will be self-sustaining and can be replicated in other communities throughout Vermont and the Northern Forest region.”

Based in Hanover, N.H., Hubbard Brook Research Foundation (HBRF) is a nonprofit organization established in 1993 to support the world-renowned Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study with policy and education initiatives, including recent projects on carbon cycling, biomass energy and ecosystem services. Green Mountain College was named by Sierra magazine as the “greenest school in the country,” reflecting GMC’s overall commitment to environmental initiatives. The College expects to be the first higher education institution in the nation to be carbon neutral by 2011 after having reduced its own emissions by over 50 percent.