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Montpelier Heat District Project Delayed

A planned district heat project in Montpelier has run into another delay.

The city and the state of Vermont have planned a system to connect 20 city buildings to the state’s upgraded biomass heat plant.

The city is building the distribution system for the heat, and that project is expected to be finished this fall. But Montpelier Mayor John Hollar says the project to upgrade the state’s biomass plant has run into some unexpected delays.

“They’ve had some issues that have arisen they didn’t foresee. We thought rather than try to convert the system after the heating season has begun, it was prudent that wait until next year to make that conversion,” Hollar said.

The city now plans to create a temporary heating system using the city hall’s boilers to provide heat.

“That will consist of some temporary boilers. We’ll have to reconfigure the city heating plant, heating facilities in a way that will enable it to provide heat to a number of city buildings as well as the private users,” Hollar explained.

The city’s distribution will create a smaller version of the planned heat district, but will use oil instead of wood heat.

Under the original plan, the heating district would have relied on oil boilers for most of this heating season while the central biomass heat system was completed.

Buildings and General Services Commissioner Michael Obuchowski says the biomass plant has run into delays including asbestos and challenges with a railroad easement so it makes sense on both sides to delay supplying the city with thermal energy until next year.

The state will heat its buildings using temporary boilers.  

Montpelier City Manager Bill Fraser says the city had agreed to a revised start time, and the state probably could have made the November 18 connection date as planned. But, they had reached a point where they had to choose between a faster, more expensive connection between the plant and the city’s system, or a preferred, more cost effective system that would have delayed the start up this year.  Fraser said they decided the wait to ensure that the work was completed with the longevity of the system in mind.

Fraser says the decision also allows the state to proceed with their project without a looming deadline, on a much more logical schedule, while it gives the city the opportunity to run a smaller system of mainly their own buildings and ensure that everyone properly hooked up while it’s not heating season.

The city will pay $6 million for the distribution system and the state’s portion is $18 million.

Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.
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