POULTNEY, VT (October 22, 2008) - Green Mountain College President Paul Fonteyn presented an ambitious program of campus changes during a community meeting held today in Withey Hall. In his first major address since his appointment as president in July, Fonteyn outlined a broad vision for students, faculty, staff and guests from the Poultney community in a speech titled “A Greener View: Sustainability & Regeneration.”
The centerpiece of Fonteyn’s address was the announcement that GMC will construct a biomass heating plant with electric power generation, a move that will bring the College close to its goal of complete carbon neutrality. GMC will finance the $3.6 million project through loans and grants, and plans call for the new biomass facility to begin generating heat and electricity by January of 2010.
According to the College’s recent emissions inventory study, 71% of campus greenhouse gases are generated from burning 260,000 gallons of number six fuel oil each year, a process that releases high amounts of sulfur and other pollutants into the atmosphere.
“Efforts to reach carbon neutrality inevitably focus on how we heat our campus,” Fonteyn said. The new plant will use green woodchips—a sustainable and renewable fuel source—to heat all campus buildings. The chips will be harvested in an environmentally friendly way from local sources, which will encourage growth of the local, sustainable wood chip market and the emerging bio-energy economy. The College estimates it will purchase 4,900 tons of wood chips per year. Economic savings to the College will go a long way towards covering the plant’s price tag. Even after subtracting the cost of wood chips, GMC estimates it will save over $250,000 per year in heating costs. “Besides reducing our dependency on the global oil supply and limiting exposure to the volatile fossil fuel market, this new plant could pay for itself within fifteen years,” Fonteyn said.
Steam Turbine Generator
A key feature of the plan is installing a steam turbine generator to the wood boilers which will produce 400,000 kWh of electricity. The co-generation plan will meet about 20% of the College’s power needs and, at certain times, provide surplus electrical energy capacity to Central Vermont Public Service. Between participation in the CVPS Cow Power program and co-generation, GMC will fulfill about 70% of the campus’ electricity needs. GMC will also take steps within the next year to upgrade its aging electrical distribution system.
President Fonteyn envisions the new biomass plant as an open educational laboratory for GMC students and for the general public, and a destination for people interested in learning how local, renewable resources can provide solutions to energy and environmental challenges.
Bozen Wellness Center
He outlined several other initiatives aimed at using existing space on campus to accommodate the needs of a growing student population and new faculty. “We took seriously the point of view that a College which takes environmental leadership as a central tenet of its mission should explore other options before engaging in new construction,” said Fonteyn. “In the spirit of regeneration, the College has done an intensive study aimed at converting existing space to accommodate our growing student body.”
The Bozen building will be transformed into a special residence hall called SAGE (Students for Academic and Green Engagement), GMC’s first LEED-certified building, with space for 26 students who display a passion for learning and academic achievement as well as exemplary service to the campus community. Services provided by the Bozen Wellness Center will continue at Nesbit House at 38 College Street. GMC will make the necessary upgrades to this property to insure that the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of students will be met.
Fonteyn also announced that landscaping work at Bentley House, located on the corner of College Street and Bentley Avenue, has already begun. Once a private residence, Bentley was acquired many years ago by the College and at various times served as a dean’s residence and a residence hall. The building has fallen into disrepair, and Fonteyn invited the audience during Wednesday’s address to dream up new plans for future use. In the meantime, Bentley is receiving a facelift, including a new roof and exterior painting. Fonteyn cited the regeneration of Bentley as a symbol of renewal during the College’s 175th year of operation.