GMC Plans Discussions On Local Fuel
01/27/11 7:34AM By Nina Keck  Download MP3
(Host) Green Mountain College will be kicking off a series of round table discussions in February designed to reduce the school's carbon footprint - and boost the local economy.
VPR's Nina Keck has more.
(Keck) Green Mountain College has been working hard to lessen its carbon emissions. Last spring the school installed a biomass plant, which now provides 80 percent of its heat and 20 percent of its power.
While the plant burns woodchips, a renewable source of fuel, the college currently trucks in that fuel from all over New England.
College officials admit that the environmental impact and added cost of transporting those woodchips limits the plant's environmental benefits.
Over the next year, the college will use a $73,000 grant to study the feasibility of using locally produced fuel.
Sarah Mittlefehldt teaches environmental studies and natural resource management at the college.
(Mittlefehldt) "What we're trying to do is figure out a process by which preferably other communities might be able to learn from. So we're holding a series of round tables - trying to make the connections between all parts of the production process. So the mill owners, the loggers, the land owners the college, foresters in the area and try to really figure out ways to create a community scale energy projects like this that are based on a wide variety of disparate stake holders - get them in a room together and try to make decisions to make this sustainable for the long term."
(Keck) Mittlefehldt says hopefully, they can come up with a template that other colleges or communities could use.
She says Green Mountain College sees biomass as one of several renewable energy sources that they want to make use of.
Like wind and solar power, biomass is not without its detractors. Mittlefehldt says part of the challenge facing the college is to ensure that any wood used for fuel is harvested in away that won't harm the landscape.
(Mittlefehldt) "You may have to pay a little bit extra to get that level of assurance that these chips were sustainably harvested. But that will be one of the things that will have to be figure out in these round tables is how much more are we willing to pay to ensure that these kind of ecologically sustainable practices are being used."
(Keck) She says if done right, the college can help the ecological sustainability of local forests, boost the economic and social sustainability of nearby communities, and create a roadmap for others.
For VPR News, I'm Nina Keck.