iC Dingbat

Feeling the Burn

Story by: Teko Mmolawa '12

Being located in Maine has meant Colby has had to burn a lot of oil in the winter to keep campus buildings warm. Not so anymore.

Biomass Facility
Colby’s new biomass plant burns sustainably harvested wood chips instead of oil to heat campus buildings.
A biomass plant that opened this January is making Colby less dependent on oil by burning 22,000 tons of wood chips annually instead of one million gallons of oil. This takes Colby much closer to its goal of being carbon neutral by 2015. “We are going to make a big dent in what we are emitting,” said Director of Physical Plant Patricia Whitney.

The benefits are economic as well as environmental. Using local biomass will help support local forestry businesses. The wood chips come from forest operations within a 50-mile radius of the college. The plant burns byproducts of sustainable forest operations, including bark, limbs, and treetops, that are cut into chips and transported to Colby.

Biomass is expected to save the college money in the long run. With an $11-million price tag, the new plant will pay for itself within six to 10 years, Colby predicts.

woodchipsAs people walk and drive by the plant they can see the machinery at work through roadside windows. Margaux LeBlanc ’15 of Kennebunk, Maine, is creating an educational brochure about the plant. “It’s cool to see how energy is made at Colby—how our campus is powered and where it comes from,” she said.

The college plans on using the plant for most of the year. “For most months of the year we can only operate on wood, but during the peak months we have to have a little bit of oil,” said Whitney.

The steam from the plant provides heat to keep buildings warm, to cook, and to make hot water. It also is used to cogenerate electricity using a turbine at the steam plant.

Teko Mmolawa '12
Gaborone, Botswana
Majors: English & French Studies