The Bulletin Board

Berlin to use waste heat from Burgess BioPower to clear snow from streets, sidewalks

By: - August 11, 2022 12:27 pm
A man holding wood chips for biomass fuel

Biomass is considered renewable energy but has raised concerns among some environmentalists because it emits carbon. (Getty Images)

The city of Berlin won a $19 million federal grant to use waste heat from biomass plant Burgess BioPower to keep its streets and sidewalks clear of snow in the winter.

Installing the heat system will also allow the city to replace around two miles of roads in the downtown area as well as a bridge in need of repair, according to Mayor Paul Grenier. The project will use only around 10 percent of the waste heat created by Burgess, which burns low-grade wood to generate electricity.

“A lot of people think, ‘We’re going to heat sidewalks? What a waste of money.’ But the ancillary benefit is there’s going to be complete reconstruction of Pleasant Street and Main Street,” Grenier said.  

The state’s congressional delegation lauded the project as an innovative effort connecting renewable power generation with tourism. The funding comes from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant program.

Grenier said the city’s partnership with the plant will be a good demonstration to attract other businesses that could use the remaining waste heat on the plant’s 60-acre property.  

A spokesperson from Burgess agreed. “It is also a great opportunity to demonstrate how biomass technology can continue to advance and also provide thermal energy to host communities and industries,” said Sarah Boone in a statement. 

Biomass is considered renewable energy but has raised concerns among some environmentalists because it emits carbon, and trees take a long time to grow back. While Burgess BioPower is around 25 percent efficient, using the waste heat can improve that equation. Right now, the heat generated from burning the wood is just emitted into the atmosphere.

Past attempts to co-locate businesses on Burgess’ campus have failed, such as a 2019 plan to site a greenhouse on the same property that would use waste heat for its operation.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee reported on energy and environment for New Hampshire Bulletin. She also previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.