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Dartmouth College abandons biomass conversion plans

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Dartmouth College has stepped away from plans to replace its central heating plant with a new biomass plant.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, work on the Dartmouth Green Energy Project continued to improve energy resiliency, sustainability, and efficiency on campus by replacing the institution’s 100-year old central steam-heat system with new energy generation and distribution systems has broadened to include the investigation of several energy systems.

Dartmouth officials took time to evaluate all aspects of the energy project, which has three components – developing new heat generation options to replace the use of No.6 fuel oil in the central heating plant; converting the distribution system that delivers heat from the plant to campus buildings from a steam-heat system to a high-efficiency hot-water system; and converting buildings to using hot water, improving overall efficiency.

Josh Keniston, vice-president of campus services and institutional projects, said: “After careful evaluation, Dartmouth has determined that the previous plan, which called for replacing the central heating plant with a new plant that used biomass to be developed and operated by a private partner, was not the right path forward, and we’ve stopped that part of the project.

“Instead, we’re prioritising the conversion to a hot-water system, which will result in greater energy efficiency, more-comfortable heating levels across campus, and will provide a flexible platform to adopt new technologies.

“Over time, we want to move away from a single, central generation facility and explore options for a distribution system that uses a range of sustainable energy sources.”

The college is expanding the evaluation of alternative heat sources and considering geothermal systems and solar thermal, and continuing to add to rooftop photovoltaic (PV) installations while looking into future development of a large-scale solar PV field.