ANR secretary says biomass power could double

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(Host) Vermont is a national leader in generating heat and electricity from wood chips. And the state’s natural resources secretary says Vermont  forests have enough capacity to at least double the current output of biomass power.

Natural Resources Secretary Jonathan Wood says he’s excited about the prospect of more large scale wood chip-burning plants.

(Wood) This is a sustainable and prudent use of our resources on a Vermont scale, where we can really get ourselves in a position where we’re less dependent on outside energy, we’re utilizing  a local product and we can keep that money within a tighter circle here within our own state. It’s just a great idea.

(Host) Wood says the development of more woodchip-fired plants could help revitalize the state’s forest products industry. It would also create markets for the "low-quality" wood that landowners need to "thin out" to encourage timber-quality trees.

He says money-making opportunities like those will create incentives to preserve Vermont’s woodlands.

Chris Recchia directs the non- profit Biomass Energy resource Center in Montpelier.

He says Vermont already has two commercial woodchip plants generating electricity, and 36 schools using woodchip boilers for heat.

Recchia says the schools have benefited from state subsidies for installing the systems, which cost considerably more up front than conventional oil furnaces.

(Recchia) They’re saving on average 60 percent in their fuel costs, they’re saving the state a million- plus gallons of oil a year and average size schools are saving a hundred – hundred fifty thousand a year which is of course two or three teaching positions and program and things like that, so it’s really worth looking into.

(Host) Recchia says four Vermont communities – Montpelier, Brattleboro, Randolph and Burlington –are considering building wood-chip plants to heat their downtowns and generate electricity.

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