Montpelier District Heating Plant Cracks Concrete

By Anna Simet | April 19, 2013

With all that’s happened in the U.S. this week, it’s been hard to focus on our industry news. Despite the tragedies in Boston and Texas, however, people still have to go on with their lives, go to work, and business—for the most part—must continue as usual. 

Over in Montpelier, Vt., it has. There this week, a project that Biomass Magazine has been following for several years broke some serious ground. The city of Montpelier began smashing through concrete downtown for the $20 million district heating plant, making way for the mile of new piping that will be layed to connect buildings and deliver hot water to a dozen buildings, water heated from the combustion of wood chips (around 20,000 tons per year). (Note: I originally had posted that it was steam, but it is actually hot water).

The new district energy plant is replacing a state boiler plant that was originally built in the 1940s to burn coal, then converted to oil, then refitted in the 80s to burn woodchips, with a modern system.

It took a long time to get this project going—the idea was first looked at back in 2003, the first full feasibility study done in 2009—and a lot of advocating on the part of city officials who  really believed in the project and its long-term benefits (especially the hundreds of thousands of dollars saved) to the city. There was actually a time that the city council decided to cancel the project, but reversed its decision after receiving an overwhelming amount of negative feedback.

Just a side note, our friend Ever-GreenEnergy, which also operates District Energy Saint Paul (a tour stop at the International Biomass Conference & Expo a couple of weeks ago), is supporting the core design services for the underground distribution piping.

While it’s likely that driving around in downtown Montpelier is going to be frustrating for the summer, the end result will be well worth it. I feel your pain, being a resident of a state—North Dakota—in which road construction is practically considered a season (the Bakken oil boom has been very stressful on our roads). A small convenience to Montpelier residents: to get the low down on traffic the project is creating at any given time, one can call a special district heat hot line.

I am definitely looking forward to seeing the Montpelier project completed (slated for the end of the summer), and hopefully we’ll be able to showcase the project in an upcoming issue of Biomass Magazine.