Ideas @ Work: #2 Biomass Plant

Photo of woodchips spilling into hopper at Norwich biomass heating plant
33 ideas big and small from Norwich students, faculty, staff, and alumni that are transforming campus and the world.
The Norwich Record

Spring 2016

Twenty-five years ago, NU’s current Chief Administrative Officer Dave Magida floated the idea of adding a biomass heating plant to the university’s oil-fired central heating system. The new plant could be supplied with sustainably harvested woodchips from nearby forests. At the time, the project wasn’t economically feasible, but thanks to significant improvements in efficiency and to a low-interest-rate loan from Tawani Enterprises, Magida’s idea became a reality. The plant went online in 2013. In its first two years of operation, it saved the university over $2.3 million in heating costs, offset more than 1.4 million gallons of fuel oil, and reduced CO2 emissions by 13,608 tons. Even with today’s rock-bottom fuel prices, Magida says BTUs produced from woodchips are still 38 percent cheaper than oil, and having the option to burn either fuel helps circumvent supply disruptions and wild price swings.

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