A public-private partnership seeking to supply Vermont Medical Center with clean energy through district heating is now seeking state approval.
Municipal utility Burlington Electric Department and a group including Vermont Gas Systems, Ever-Green Energy and the city of Burlington are aiming for regulatory approval to go ahead with the estimated $45 million project. The project would construct a pipeline to move heat from Burlington Electric’s wood-fired McNeil Generating Station to the Vermont Medical Center to provide steam and low-carbon energy.
The partnership has been working on the idea for several years. The planners contend that the district heating system would provide the hospital facilities with greater energy effiencies and a lower carbon emissions footprint.
Overall, the biomass power to steam equation could save millions of British thermal units in energy use and an 11.5 percent reduction in the city of Burlington’s commercial-sector natural-gas related greenhouse gas emissions (in replacing gas-fired power), according to Ever-Green Energy and city officials.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger and utility officials say the project is ready for the State of Vermont Act 250 permitting process and keep the district heating plan on a construction schedule.
“Burlington has among the most ambitious climate goals in the country, and meeting those goals will require innovative local strategies to dramatically lower emissions from our largest driver—thermal heating,” Weinberger said in a statement. “Generations of Burlington residents and leaders have recognized the opportunity of creating a District Energy system and, after 35 years of stops and starts, it is exciting to pass another key milestone in our steady progress toward bringing this project to life.”
Under the plan, Ever-Green would establish the district heating business buying steam from McNeil Generating Station. That steam would then be sold to Vermont Gas Services, the utility which then would deliver it to customer Vermont Medical Center and perhaps other business customers.
The McNeil Generating Station runs on wood chips harvested from Vermont and upstate New York within 60 to 70 miles of the power plant. Burlington Electric says its McNeil station cuts down greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent compared to natural gas generators.
The medical center is a five-campus academic research and health care facility running under the University of Vermont Health Network. This includes a 562-bed hospital.
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(Rod Walton, senior editor for EnergyTech, is a 15-year veteran of covering the energy industry both as a newspaper and trade journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]).
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