Central Vermont Public Service President Bob Young and GMC President Jack Brennan tour the Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport during the announcement of the College's enrollment in the utility's Cow Power program.

Green Mountain Becomes First Campus
Powered by Vermont Dairy Cows

Poultney, Vermont, October 26, 2006 - In a state where it’s often theorized there are more cows than people, Green Mountain College believes it may now be the nation’s first cow-powered campus. The sustainably-focused liberal arts college has just announced its enrollment in Central Vermont Public Service’s Cow Power™ program, through which the utility delivers energy created from burning biogas created from cow manure on Vermont dairy farms.

This initiative helps the college do its part to address global warming by reducing its carbon emissions by approximately 3500 metric tons per year, or the equivalent of removing 758 passenger cars from use for a year.

The College has committed to designate 50 percent of its main campus electric usage as Cow Power and 100 percent on all its other accounts, which include the president’s house, the college farm, the college inn and alumni house, and an off-campus residence hall in Killington, VT. Total Cow Power enrollment will be approximately 1.2 million kilowatt-hours annually.

“This is a great step for us toward a sustainably-powered campus,” said Provost Bill Throop. “We are very happy to be supporting not just renewable energy,” says Throop, “but also the regional economy and the family farms that are so important to the Vermont way of life. It is a good fit with our mission, and departments across campus are supporting the project from their own budgets because they feel it’s a priority.”

A small ceremony and tour of the Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport, VT was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 26 to mark GMC’s participation.

Blue Spruce Farm was the first CVPS Cow Power™ producer, generating since January 2005. Several other Vermont farms are in the process of developing generator projects and are expected online later this year and in 2007. Four farms recently received grant offers totaling more than $660,000 from CVPS to help get them started.

They include: Green Mountain Dairy Farm in Sheldon, owned by Brian and Bill Rowell; Montagne Farms in St. Albans, two farms owned by Dave Montagne; Newmont Farms LLC in Fairlee, owned by Walter and Margaret Gladstone; and Deer Flats Farm in West Pawlet, owned by Dick and Rich Hulett.

Green Mountain College officials were drawn to the idea that, unlike programs based on standard renewable energy certificates (also known as “green tags”), which simply ensure that renewable power is produced somewhere, Cow Power has the added benefit of being a local program where students and employees can actually see the farms where the power is being generated and learn about the process.

“We want our students learning how to support sustainable communities right here in Vermont and this helps us lead by example,” Throop says.

CVPS Cow Power™ directly links consumers and farmers. CVPS customers can choose to receive all, half or a quarter of their electrical energy through Cow Power, and pay a premium of 4 cents per kilowatt hour, which goes to participating farm-producers to purchase renewable energy credits when enough farm energy isn’t available, or to the CVPS Renewable Development Fund. The fund provides grants to farm owners to develop on-farm generation. Farm-producers are paid 95 percent of the market price for the energy sold to CVPS in addition to the 4-cent premium.

To create energy, manure and other farm waste are held in a sealed concrete tank at the same temperature as a cow’s stomach, 101 degrees. Bacteria digest the volatile components, creating methane while killing pathogens and weed seeds. The methane fuels an engine/generator, and the electricity generated is fed onto the CVPS electric distribution system. Click here for a complete description of the process.

“GMC’s enrollment in Cow Power demonstrates a tremendous financial and philosophical commitment to improving air and water quality, farm economics and renewable energy in the Green Mountain State,” Central Vermont Public Service President Bob Young said. “Green Mountain College is setting a high standard for itself and others who care about the environment.”

He says that Green Mountain College is the largest customer enrolled in the farm-to-consumer renewable energy program.

Stephen Wark, director of consumer affairs and public information for the Vermont Department of Public Service, praised GMC for its commitment.

“Customers have got to support and embrace the technology for farm owners to make the financial commitments they are making to become Cow Power farms,” Wark said. “Customers like GMC are providing farms an opportunity to improve their manure management and their bottom lines.”

Cow Power is Green Mountain College’s latest effort in a string of projects aimed at making the 172-year-old campus more environmentally-friendly. In 1999, the College completed a campus-wide overhaul of its lighting and plumbing fixtures, earning the designation of EPA Energy Star Showcase Campus.

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Marie Audet, one of the owners of Blue Spruce Farm, describes the dairy operation and Cow Power process to a group of journalists from the Society for Environmental Journalists.

CVPS Cow Power director, David Dunn, holds a handful of post-digester manure solids during the tour of Blue Spruce Farm. The digester removes pathogens and odor, leaving a dry substance used for bedding for the cows. Prior to the digester, the farm spent $1200 weekly on bedding sawdust.

Green Mountain College
Campus Energy Initiatives

As a sustainably-focused college, Green Mountain is working hard to reduce its ecological footprint and contribute to clean, renewable energy.

- In 1998, Green Mountain College became the nation's first EPA Energy Star Showcase Campus following a campus-wide retrofitting of light fixtures to take compact fluorescent bulbs.

- The College installed low flush toilets and low-flow shower heads throughout campus.

- The College installed remote controlled heating thermostats throughout campus to improve heating efficiency in all buildings.

- The campus has both wind and photovoltaic demonstration projects on campus. The passive solar green house at the college farm is powered by wind. The student center has solar panels on its roof, which will soon be grid-connected.

In 2006, Green Mountain College committed to 50% Cow Power throughout its main campus. Several smaller buildings, including the president's house, the campus farm, Inn, and alumni house will be at 100% Cow Power.