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Dartmouth identifies potential sites for biomass plant

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/22/2019 7:00:27 PM
Modified: 5/23/2019 4:38:54 PM

HANOVER — Dartmouth College on Wednesday revealed three potential locations for its proposed biomass heating plant: two sites off Route 10 just north of campus and a third site two miles south of the Dartmouth Green along Route 120.

The two sites near campus are the hill behind the Dewey parking lot, east of Rope Ferry Road and Occom Pond, and land by the Hanover Country Club’s maintenance facility garage at the south end of the golf course.

The third location is the former home of Trumbull-Nelson Construction Co., next to the Hanover Public Works Department, on Route 120.

The proposed plant is part of a $200 million investment in biomass power and hot water heating to cut carbon emissions and transition the college toward green energy. Two-thirds of the investment will go toward the transition from the current steam distribution system to a hot water heating system while the rest will go toward the biomass power plant.

The college, which owns all three potential sites, is currently reviewing submissions for the private company that will design, finance, build and operate the plant, which would burn wood chips, and hot water heating system. Dartmouth, which would pay the private partner for the heat it produces over 30 years, has hired Goldman Sachs as an adviser for the project.

While college officials have not ruled out the golf course land for future expansion, Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said the potential site near the current 16th hole would not preclude the operation of an 18-hole golf course. College officials have also said that the golf course will remain in operation at least through the 2020 season.

Last week, Trumbull-Nelson moved from its longtime home in Hanover to the Plaza Heights industrial park off Interchange Drive in West Lebanon, according to company vice president Tony Instasi. The company had owned the 5-acre site on Route 120, just north of the Lebanon line, before selling it to Dartmouth for $6.5 million in 2008, according to assessing records, and had been renting it from the college since then.

Trumbull-Nelson used its facility along Route 120 to store heavy equipment and construction materials. In recent years, however, the company has transitioned to buying materials directly, and the storage space on Route 120 was no longer needed, Instasi said.

“We still have the same people. We’re just in a different location,” he said.

Dartmouth said planners looked at sites in Hanover, Norwich and Lebanon and took traffic and environmental impact, potential truck routes and distance to campus into consideration. Lawrence said the plant needs a minimum of 4 acres for operations and storage of wood chips, though it is too early to know the plant’s exact dimensions.

Dartmouth currently uses a steam distribution system and gets its heat and some of its electricity from a 1.5-acre oil-burning power plant in downtown Hanover. The plant was built over 120 years ago and uses No. 6 fuel oil, a carbon-heavy fuel.

The potential sites were unveiled at a public forum on Wednesday night in Filene Auditorium to an audience of over 25 people.

Josh Keniston, Dartmouth’s vice president for institutional projects, estimated that at the biomass plant, the average number of trucks delivering biomass and biodiesel in the heart of winter would be around 12, with as many as 14 to 16 on the coldest days of the year.

The current power plant requires a maximum of six trucks on the coldest nights. Dartmouth also plans to get all of its wood chips from within a 90-minute drive of Hanover.

“We will certainly have the ability to put parameters on when fuel is delivered,” he said.

Dartmouth plans next month to ask three or four interested companies to present detailed proposals, with the final company decided a year from now. The college will announce a site at the end of this summer.

“The people here are also concerned about green issues and the power plant has been a sore topic for a number of years,” said Hanover resident Sue Reed.

   Amanda Zhou can be reached at azhou@


As many as 14 to 16 trucks would be needed to deliver wood chips and biodiesel to a proposed Dartmouth College biomass plant on the coldest day of the year, but the average required in the heart of winter would be up to 12 a day. An earlier version of this story was unclear on that point.

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