Letter Box

Wednesday April 3, 2013

Another view of the Springfield biomass plant

Editor of the Reformer:

In stating his opposition to the Springfield biomass power plant ("Biomass energy: dirty, highly inefficient and not sustainable" in the March 30 Reformer), Randall Susman of Springfield presents some misleading information about greenhouse gas emissions and efficiency of power plants.

First, Professor Susman states that the proposed 35 MW wood-chip-fired power plant will produce about 450,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year, but fails to note that if that wood is harvested on a sustained-yield basis (clearly the intent of the project), those carbon dioxide emissions will be offset through the sequestering of carbon dioxide by growing trees. This is a far different situation than occurs in burning fossil fuels that are not part of a renewable cycle. Assuming that the wood burned in the power plant is replaced by growing new trees, the operation will be much closer to carbon-neutral.

Second, Susman criticizes the proposed plant for its low efficiency (he claims 26 percent) and contrasts that with a wood furnace operating at 85 percent efficiency. The first efficiency number is for electricity generation, the second for heat production. When considering power plant efficiency, a more relevant comparison is with conventional power plants, most of which operate in the range of 30-35 percent -- most of the rest being lost as waste heat.

The overall efficiency of the Springfield power plant would be significantly increased if the waste heat were utilized, and my understanding is that the plant will be designed so that waste heat could be captured and distributed if uses/markets for that heat were found. This strategy is called "combined heat and power" or "cogeneration" and it should be included in every power plant built today -- and many older ones. By capturing and distributing waste heat from the proposed Springfield power plant, its efficiency could be dramatically increased, though such a large plant would likely generate far more waste than could be reasonably utilized in that area. Such a supply of low-cost waste heat could be a very attractive proposition for heat-intensive businesses looking for a place to build or re-locate.

Alex Wilson,


Dummerston, March 31

Home energy:
Take the challenge

Editor of the Reformer:

I’m writing to inform Brattleboro residents and others whose towns are participating, about the 2013 Vermont Home Energy Challenge. We have a goal in Vermont to have 80 percent of the state’s housing stock weatherized by 2020. Weatherization helps Vermont residents save money on their heating and cooling bills, and importantly, will decrease Vermont’s energy needs. One of the best investments a homeowner can make is to improve their home’s energy efficiency. The average Vermonter can save 20 to 30 percent on their energy bills through a home efficiency project -- an average of $1000 per year.

The goal of the 2013 VHEC is for each participating town to have 3 percent of homes and apartments made more efficient. In Brattleboro, this translates to 178 homes and apartments. We have a lot of work to do. As an incentive, during the Challenge, local contractors are offering professional energy audits for $250. The audit cost will be credited if the homeowner moves forward with a home efficiency project of at least $2,000, such as air sealing and insulating. The Challenge also offers residents the opportunity to sign up for a free energy visit by a team of trained volunteers to review home heating usage, identify energy saving opportunities and help find resources to reduce energy bills.

I know from experience that having a professional energy audit is easy to put on the back burner. We finally had an audit last year, out of concern that state and federal incentives might go away. We learned so much from the process. We had our basement professionally insulated and were able to do some of the recommended improvements ourselves. We have some projects yet to do. We received a nice incentive check from Efficiency Vermont, and best of all, we enjoyed a warmer home this winter and used less oil.

To learn more about the Vermont Home Energy Challenge locally, and find a certified professional auditor, visit www.brattleboroenergychallenge.org. You can sign up for a free energy visit, volunteer for this project or get more information by contacting Paul Cameron at 802-251-8135 or pcameron@brattleboro.org. Paul is the Brattleboro Town Energy Coordinator and director of Brattleboro Climate Protection, who along with the Brattleboro Energy Committee is sponsoring the Challenge in Brattleboro. Paul is also the regional coordinator for the Challenge.

If you have not had a home energy audit, I hope you will look into having one completed this year, and then, if possible, move forward on the recommendations. You will feel great about using less energy, saving money on energy bills, and helping your town win the challenge, all while being more comfortable in your home. It’s a good time to take action.

Kathleen White,

Brattleboro, March 26

Avoid being scammed

Editor of the Reformer:

This letter is in response to a letter Mrs. Susan Avery, senior citizen, had in your newspaper recently regarding telephone scams to the unsuspecting.

In the town where I live back in Kansas, we discuss these kinds of things at our senior citizen luncheons and gatherings, and the following are some of the thoughts that have been brought up amongst my group of friends and neighbors regarding unwanted telephone calls:

1. If you have caller ID, don’t answer the phone unless you recognize the calling number. Your phone is for your convenience, not someone else’s.

2. If you don’t have caller ID, ask the caller for a telephone number where you can call them back, even in an emergency. This will give you time to check around with other family members, and will also quickly make scam callers hang up the phone.

3. Never give personal info over the phone, unless you initiated the call and know who you’re talking to.

The scam telephone callers are not a real big problem to handle and can quickly be disposed of.

We think the bigger problems for all of us are people who every day cheat everyone of us out of money and privacy, like the following:

1. Parents who don’t want to raise responsible children and grandchildren, and who go so far as to abuse and neglect them; and then want every social service agency in their community to help raise their poor neglected children and keep paying for their every need all through school and on into their own loser lives when it comes time for them to have children too.

2. Those who cheat every year on their income taxes, or

3. People who work for years in the medical field and talk freely to anybody who wants to listen about each patient’s personal medical information.

Mrs. Avery should certainly talk to other seniors and get advice -- they are very wise most of the time, and she should not feel frightened or intimidated by people on the other end of the telephone line.

And no one who should stop writing good obituaries for their loved ones -- that is only cheating the person that you are memorializing.

Never change the good things that are done in this world because of some lowlife who is trying to frighten you ... where would we all be then?

Eunice Carey,

Kansas, March 21


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