Windham Wood Heat has announced plans to convert 20 schools and other public buildings to locally-sourced wood heat. That announcement came last week from the Brattleboro-based Sustainable Energy Outreach Network. The state has awarded the network $1.6 million to get the job done.
The money comes from a 2013 agreement between the state and Vermont Yankee owner Entergy, via the Vermont Public Service Department’s Clean Energy Development Fund. The Windham Wood Heat Initiative is intended to increase energy efficiency, save Windham County schools, municipalities and homeowners money on their heating bills and spur economic activity and job growth. A press release from the Sustainable Energy Outreach Network states:
A new state-funded initiative will help Windham County convert the heating systems in schools and municipal buildings from oil to locally sourced, renewable heat from high-efficiency wood heat systems. Windham Wood Heat’s near-term goal is to convert 20 schools and public buildings to wood heat, while its long-term goals are to make the county a hub of advanced-wood heating technology and strengthen the local forest economy.
“Windham County is 90 percent forested,” said Guy Payne, executive director of the Sustainable Energy Outreach Network, in the release. “We have the potential to become an extraordinary regional hub of modern wood heating technology, professional development, and fuel supply and delivery. Our project team will be assisting with energy efficiency and fuel switching, developing greater mechanical capacity in high-efficiency wood-based heating, and contributing to the overall transformation of this region’s economy.”
Public school and municipal buildings in Windham County are eligible to participate in the Windham Wood Heat Initiative. Buildings selected for participation in the program will get one-on-one coaching through project development, bid review, budget and public approval stages, plus incentives ranging from $10,000 to $75,000 toward installation of a high-efficiency pellet or wood chip heating system. Towns and schools interested in assistance or more information from Windham Wood Heat about converting a building to wood fuel should contact Kim Smith, (802) 257-4547 x108.
Vermont State Employees Credit Union also received funding through the Clean Energy Development Fund. VSECU was awarded $300,000 to support solar loans for residential projects in Windham County. The funds will reduce interest rates for borrowers working with VSECU’s Brattleboro branch, financing solar projects for their homes. The program is income-sensitive, and will provide greater support for borrowers with incomes under 120 percent of Windham County's median income.