Community to weigh in on $200 million biomass plant

This map show potential sites for Dartmouth College’s new biomass heating plant.

HANOVER — Members of the Dartmouth community are getting the opportunity to weigh in on the location of Dartmouth College’s planned biomass plant, which is part of the $200 million Dartmouth Green Energy Project.

The school is changing from its current steam power plant to a forced hot water system powered by renewable biomass fuels.

The change will allow the college to stop using heating oil. The current steam plant is between the Hanover Inn and the Hopkins Center for the Arts in downtown Hanover.

The three potential sites for the new biomass plant are the south end of the golf course, the hill behind the Dewey parking lot, and property the college owns on Route 120 in Hanover where the Trumbull-Nelson Construction Company was formerly located.

The public forums are scheduled for 6 p.m. on July 31 and Aug. 13 in Moore Hall’s Filene Auditorium.

The current plant dates to 1898 and, while it has been upgraded over the years, some parts of the existing plant need to be replaced, said Dartmouth’s Josh Keniston, vice president and chief of staff to Executive Vice President Rick Mills.

The plant heats 120 Dartmouth buildings, which amounts to more than 5 million square feet of space. The school burns about 3.5 million gallons of No. 6 fuel oil every year to heat the buildings.

Aside from the financial cost, the non-renewable heat source also carries an environmental burden the school wants to address.

The biomass plant is part of President Phil Hanlon’s pledge to reduce Dartmouth’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2050. The new plant is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2025.

The new heating fuel the school would use is a combination of a solid biomass derived from wood waste from the forest and timber industries. The plant would also burn liquid biofuel on the coldest of days of the year, when the wood biomass system cannot meet Dartmouth’s energy needs, according to Keniston.

Liquid biofuel can be made from materials such as vegetable oil, other oils, animal fat and soybeans.