Vt. district heat project moves forward

By Luke Geiver | January 16, 2012

A $20 million biomass district heating project proposed for Montpelier, Vt., has received recommendation from city and state officials on three necessary contracts.

The approval of the three contracts brings the project another step closer to completion. In June, the city also passed a vote issuing $2.75 million in bonds to help fund the plant. The project will connect the city hall, the police station, the fire station, Montpelier High School and potentially another elementary school.

One of the contracts outlines the business relationship between the city and state including the rates, future capacity and operational protocol for the project. The state will run the woody biomass heating facility at a capacity of 40.2 million Btu per hour, with the city of Montpelier entitled to an initial capacity equivalent of 9.71 million Btu per hour, according to the thermal energy purchase and sale agreement between the city and the state.

A combination of city and state representatives will design the operating protocol for the facility, while an independent third party insured engineer will develop the procedures and staffing requirements necessary to maintain and operate the plant, according to the contract. The city and the state will split the costs of preparing those operating protocols.

The project received an $8 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, $7 million from Vermont, $2.75 million from the bond sale in Montpelier, $1.2 million in additional state funding, and a $1 million Clean Energy Development Fund grant. The facility should be operational in late 2013. The current steam plant dates back to the 1940s but was updated to utilize 60 percent oil and 40 percent biomass in the 1970s.