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Goddard College's $2.5M Woodchip Boiler Up & Running After Years Of Local Pushback

Goddard College's new woodchip boiler brings wood chips up from the basement on a conveyer belt.
Emily Corwin
Goddard College's new woodchip boiler brings wood chips up from the basement on a conveyer belt.

A new woodchip boiler plant at Goddard College in Plainfield is now in operation. The new system will carry hot water underground to 22 buildings across campus — replacing at least as many oil-burning boilers.

The new $2.5 million boiler provides 3 million Btu and displaces roughly 50,000 gallons of oil. The project took 14 years to come to fruition, in part due to opposition from nearby residents fearing possible air pollution.

Barry Bernstein is an owner of the local wood boiler distributor Better World Energy LLC. At a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, Bernstein said larger-scale biomass projects like Goddard’s and those at National Life and Norwich University are good ways to reduce Vermont’s dependence on fossil fuel.

“Commercial and industrial woodchip heating systems can really displace a lot at a time,” he said. And while he praised the spread of residential woodchip heating as well, Bernstein said larger projects are “where the big, quick, fast buck will take place.”

Vermont has a statewide goal of meeting 35 percent of the state’s heating demand with wood heat by the year 2030.

Emily Corwin reported investigative stories for VPR until August 2020. In 2019, Emily was part of a two-newsroom team which revealed that patterns of inadequate care at Vermont's eldercare facilities had led to indignities, injuries, and deaths. The consequent series, "Worse for Care," won a national Edward R. Murrow award for investigative reporting, and placed second for a 2019 IRE Award. Her work editing VPR's podcast JOLTED, about an averted school shooting, and reporting NHPR's podcast Supervision, about one man's transition home from prison, made her a finalist for a Livingston Award in 2019 and 2020. Emily was also a regular reporter and producer on Brave Little State, helping the podcast earn a National Edward R. Murrow Award for its work in 2020. When she's not working, she enjoys cross country skiing and biking.
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