The question of whether biomass energy – burning wood in some form to use the heat and power – is good or bad for fighting climate change has been debated in forest-filled New England for years. It’s a close cal: I was in favor of biomass in 2016, opposed in 2017, and in favor again in 2018 with the deciding factor being the need to keep loggers employed for the variety of economic and environmental benefits that forest management brings. But it’s not the slam-dunk that solar and wind power are.

This debate is hot right now in Burlington, Vt., home to wood-burning McNeil Generating Station, the biggest producer of electricity in the state since Vermont Yankee closed. There are proposals to create a district energy system by capturing steam heat from the plant and sending it via underwater pipes to the University of Vermont, UVM Medical Center and the Intervale Center next door, displacing a lot of natural-gas heating.

VTdigger has a report (here it is) about the resulting debate of whether biomass is carbon neutral over a few decades as trees regrow or whether that’s a bit of wishful thinking.


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