Montpelier votes 'yes' for biomass district heat

By Lisa Gibson | June 15, 2011

In a referendum Tuesday, June 14, citizens of Montpelier, Vt., approved a bond issue for a biomass district heating system to be installed in its downtown district.

In an impressive turnout for a special meeting vote, the bond was passed 963-609, according to Gwen Hallsmith, director of planning and community development for the city. “This is really good news,” she said. The vote gives the city the go-ahead to borrow $2.75 million for the $20 million project that will replace an old state-owned district heating plant with a new biomass plant. The existing facility has heated the state government complex for more than 20 years and the new project will also include an expansion of the distribution system to allow heat delivery to city government buildings, as well as some schools and other downtown structures in the small capital city of about 8,000.

Hallsmith was a speaker at Biomass Power & Thermal’s International Biomass Conference & Expo in St. Louis, Mo., in May, and announced during her presentation that the project had received $7 million in state funding and a matching payment in federal funds. The proposal has had plenty of support on the state, federal and now local levels.

The existing steam plant was built in the 1940s and upgraded to a 60:40 oil-biomass blend in the 1970s. With upgrades again necessary, the next appropriate step would be a complete conversion to biomass feedstock. And with the bond approval, the project is on track to meet its 2013 completion date.