The City of Montpelier, Vermont, together with the state of Vermont, is constructing a central district energy system fueled with locally-sourced renewable and sustainably-harvested wood chips. The U.S. Department of Energy provided $8 million in funding for this Community Renewable Energy Deployment (CommRE) project.
Community District Energy System
The central heat plant's 41 million British thermal unit (1,200 horsepower) will heat a complex of state buildings, several city buildings, a federal building and a number of private buildings in Montpelier, including the state capitol and city hall, a school and the post office. The system has the capacity to add additional downtown buildings.
The full build design will be capable of heating 1.8 million square feet of building space and adding cogeneration of electricity producing 1.8 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.
The Montpelier CommRE project will identify and implement the optimum ownership and customer marketing and connection strategies. As properties are connected to the system, the project will employ efficiency and conservation measures to reduce overall heat load.
The central heat plant is estimated to cost approximately $18.6 million and the district heat system is estimated to cost approximately $4.9 million. The central heat plant, which is scheduled to be online by the end of 2013, will utilize abundantly available forest harvested wood as a fuel source allowing the city and state to move away from traditional fuel oil. The move to wood for fuel will result in a reduction in fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Coincident with the CommRE project, the city has adopted a PACE program (Property Assessed Clean Energy) which allows home owners to incorporate a variety of efficiency measures and renewable energy strategies into their builds and to pay the cost of these improvements from a special assessment on their property tax.
Environmental and Economic Benefits
The City of Montpelier CommRE project will result in a seamless delivery and financing system that encourages property owners to undergo energy retrofits and install renewable energy technologies where appropriate so that by 2015:
- 50% of Montpelier's homes will have implemented deep energy retrofits
- 1,000 Montpelier homes will be weatherized and will switch to a carbon neutral fuel source
- 50% of the buildings in Montpelier's designated downtown will have undergone energy retrofits and be positioned to make maximum use of the district energy system.
In addition, the city is working on innovative financing strategies that will give property owners the option to heat their homes with renewable energy. The Montpelier CommRE project is projected to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 50,000 tons—the equivalent of $15 million in annual fuel oil savings—and invest approximately $100 million into the local Montpelier economy. By 2030, the City of Montpelier hopes to achieve an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel use.
The City of Montpelier's District Energy Subcommittee will play an important role in this CommRE project, including publicizing the project, building public support, providing information and education, learning about similar systems in other locations, and working with city and state leaders to implement the community-wide system.