Friday, April 23, 2010

Cool Technology of the Week

While touring colleges this week, I was impressed by the focus on green technologies at many institutions. Many have LEED certified buildings, extensive recycling programs and innovative alternative energy sources.

I was most intrigued by Middlebury's commitment to be carbon neutral by 2016. A major component of that effort is their Biomass gasification facility pictured above, my cool technology of the week.

The idea is simple. Biomass is fuel derived from plants, such as trees, grass, soybeans and corn. Middlebury's plant uses a highly efficient gasification process in which wood chips are super-heated in an oxygen deprived environment, where they smolder creating gasses that are ignited to heat the boiler, which produces steam. The filters in the biomass facility are rated to remove 99.7 % of the particulates from the exhaust. Overall the emissions produced by the biomass plant are not greater than those that result from Number 6 fuel oil. Burning wood produce ssignificantly less emission of sulfur compounds, which contribute to acid rain.

Benefits include
*40% reduction in net emissions of carbon (12,500 metric tons)
*eliminates 1 million gallons of Number 6 fuel oil
*utilizes a local, renewable resource
*education of students and the public about energy use
*research into new fuel sources, such as willows that local farmers can grow on marginal lands
*support for locally manufactured green technology
*stimulation of the local and state economy
*less dependence on foreign oil

Additionally, the biomass plant uses the excess pressure from the steam to co-generate approximately 3-5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. Also, the heat from the exhaust is used to preheat water going into the boiler.

A renewal, carbon neutral, co-generation plant - that's cool!

1 comment:

Rachel S said...

As a Midd alum, so glad to find this as your cool technology of the week :)