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Environment / Sustainability

University cuts greenhouse gas emissions with woody biomass boiler

June 17, 2009

Colorado State University has partnered with the Colorado State Forest Service to install a biomass boiler heating plant on the Foothills Campus to reduce the university's greenhouse gas emissions and cut energy costs.

Wood chips reduce use of natural gas

The heating plant will burn wood chips rather than rely solely on natural gas to provide hot water for the Judson M. Harper Research Complex. The wood chips are a result of forest restoration and management efforts such as forest fire mitigation projects, which typically supply about 10 tons of wood chips per acre.

The boiler is rated at 46 boiler hp, or 1.5 million Btu/hr, which is large enough to burn more than 1,300 tons of wood chips each year. Wood chips are classified as renewable energy because burning biomass releases the atmospheric carbon that was absorbed during a tree's growth cycle. The greenhouse gas emissions associated with this energy source are essentially just those resulting from transporting the fuel.

In addition, heating with wood chips costs about half the price of natural gas, resulting in a savings of approximately $60,000 in utility costs annually at CSU, said Carol Dollard, energy engineer at Colorado State.

Assisting local forest management efforts

"CSU will be assisting much-needed local forest management efforts by providing a market for woody biomass," said Joe Duda, forest management division supervisor for the Colorado State Forest Service.

"The Colorado State Forest Service applauds CSU's initiative to provide a practical demonstration of the effective use of woody biomass for heat."

(Photo:  Biomass boiler on the Foothills Campus)

Biomass is a significant step in achieving lower greenhouse gas emissions because using energy from biomass eliminates the need for fossil fuel-based energy sources and prevents rotting trees from being burned during wildfires or prescribed burning. Biomass energy produces 96 percent fewer emissions than natural forest fires and 97 percent fewer emissions than prescribed burning.

Future phases planned

The biomass boiler heating plant is one way to deal with environmental and budget concerns. Future phases are planned as funding is available and development continues.

For more information about CSU's commitment to creating a more sustainable campus and community, go to Sustainability in Facilities Management or The Green University.


Contact: Emily Wilmsen
E-mail: Emily.Wilmsen@colostate.edu
Phone: (970) 491-2336