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Allard Lumber’s mill property straddles the Brattleboro-Dummerston town line.

Town and Village

Despite uncertainty of net metering, lumber company plans cogeneration plant

Allard Lumber Company, on the Brattleboro town line, gets support from Dummerston Selectboard members

DUMMERSTON—By late next winter, if all goes according to plan, Allard Lumber Company will add a net-metering cogeneration plant to its facility on Old Ferry Road.

The Selectboard will express its unanimous support for the project in the form of a letter to the state Public Service Board, which is considering a certificate of public good for the project.

Dan Ingold, director of PowerSmith, a sustainable energy consulting firm, appeared at the Jan. 20 Selectboard meeting to alert the town to Allard’s plans. Ingold said he was there as a representative of the lumber company.

Because Allard’s property straddles the Brattleboro-Dummerston town line, and the exact location of the project’s components — the wood bin, the boiler, and the kiln — lie on the Dummerston side, Ingold wanted to notify the town of the project and field officials’ questions.

He said this notification was part of the project’s application for a certificate of public good (CPG) with the Vermont Public Service Board.

The Selectboard unanimously voted to write a letter of support for the project to submit to the PSB, and board members asked the town’s Energy Committee to consider doing the same.

Ingold said that when the owners of Allard Lumber — Clifford Allard and family, according to the company’s website — were recently considering an upgrade to their boiler, they decided to choose a more efficient model and add a small-scale, onsite, cogeneration system.

“It’s a financial investment for the Allards, but it’s something they really want to go for,” Ingold said.

The co-generation system should satisfy about 80-percent of Allard Lumber’s electricity needs, Ingold said. Through the renewable energy net-metering program with Green Mountain Power (GMP), he said Allard’s system will send all the electricity it generates onto the grid, and the company will receive a credit for 80-percent of the electricity they use.

Although Ingold reminded the board that GMP ran out of renewal energy net-metering kilowatts in November, and no new projects are being approved, he said the utility is petitioning for more kilowatts from the Public Service Board.

Allard Lumber is beginning the project in anticipation of that scenario, he said. But even if GMP’s request is not approved, Ingold said the company will still go through with it.

“It’s not as financially rewarding as doing the net metering, but I think the economics still stand on [their] own and [Allard] would be willing to” complete the co-generation project, Ingold said.

He told the board that this project will require no new buildings, and neighbors should not notice any changes at the lumber company.

Pointing to the table where the Selectboard sat — a table that could seat approximately 10 people — Ingold said that “the turbine and generator are about the size of [it]."

Board Chair Zeke Goodband asked Ingold if noise levels were expected to change with the cogeneration plant’s installation.

“Not at all,” Ingold replied.

Alex Wilson, who serves on the town’s Energy Committee, asked Ingold if Allard Lumber planned to sell all its renewable energy credits.

The firm has no plans to do so, Ingold said. “They want to retain them,” he added.

“That’s great,” Wilson said.

Positive impressions

Allard’s project “fits in very well” with the town’s goal to decrease non-renewable energy consumption by 40 percent by 2030, Wilson said.

“The Energy Committee would be very supportive of it,” Wilson said.

The Selectboard — minus the absent Jerelyn Wilson — expressed a general tone of support for the project.

“It’s a good reuse of what was once a waste product for them: wood chips,” Ingold said.

“A lumberyard utilizes a lot of energy,” board member Steve Glabach said, “and if they can make their own energy, that’s a plus."

Ingold noted that at about 1.2million kilowatt-hours per year, Allard Lumber is “one of the more substantial energy users in town."

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Originally published in The Commons issue #344 (Wednesday, February 17, 2016). This story appeared on page C1.

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