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Waste & Recycling June 20, 2023 01:03:38 AM

Burlington, VT Debates the Use of Biomass and a New District Energy Proposal

Waste Advantage
ScrapMonster Author
The panel included six speakers with expertise in climate change, greenhouse gas emissions accounting, the forestry industry and Burlington’s energy system

Burlington, VT Debates the Use of Biomass and a New District Energy Proposal

SEATTLE (Waste Advantage): Representatives of the city’s electric utility, scientists and members of the forestry industry debated on McNeil Generating Station’s merits and whether it should be expanded. The plant creates 248,700 megawatt hours of electricity in an average year — enough, roughly, to meet demand across the city. It produces that power, mainly, by burning wood chips, using largely low-grade wood such as branches or diseased trees left over from logging jobs.  Burlington Electric Department operates the station, and it’s owned jointly by the Burlington utility, Green Mountain Power and Vermont Public Power Supply Authority, or VPPSA.

Recently, the utilities have been moving toward forming a district energy system by capturing wasted steam heat from the plant and sending it to the University of Vermont, UVM Medical Center and the Intervale Center, which is located next door to McNeil.  Underground pipes would carry thermal energy in the form of steam or hot water. Using the power plant’s waste heat and steam would offset emissions that come from using natural gas by a projected 16% in Burlington.

While McNeil has been operating since 1984, when it replaced a coal plant, the urgency of climate change has brought new conversations about whether burning wood for energy — long considered to have “net-zero” emissions by Vermont and other entities around the world — helps or hurts the effort to reduce planet-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  The panel included six speakers with expertise in climate change, greenhouse gas emissions accounting, the forestry industry and Burlington’s energy system. Much of the conversation focused on emissions at McNeil — and how they’re counted.

Courtesy: www.wasteadvantagemag.com

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