Middlebury

Colleges turn to wood chips for heat — and education

Temperatures in Middlebury, Vermont, are expected to dip well below zero in the next few days. But students at Middlebury College should be cozy and warm — thanks in part to wood chips.

As part of a carbon-reduction initiative on campus, the college on Thursday expects to push the start button on its $12 million biomass gasification boiler. The facility, which sits in the middle of the campus, is projected to reduce the college’s heating oil consumption by a million gallons each year.

Getting a wood-chip boiler up and running is not easy. For Middlebury, there were three main concerns: the location of the plant, cost, and the availability of a fuel supply.