Dartmouth Seeks Submissions for Green Energy Project Partnership

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The project marks a major step toward achieving the institution’s sustainability goals.

a round window in the library looking out over the Dartmouth Green covered in snow
(Photo by Eli Burakian ’00) 

Dartmouth is seeking submissions from firms interested in partnering with the College to design, finance, build, operate, and maintain the Dartmouth Green Energy Project—a $200 million-plus initiative to build a biomass heating facility and hot water transmission system that would replace the existing central heating system and mark a major step toward achieving the institution’s sustainability goals.

The College today made public its request for qualifications (RFQ), a 38-page document that describes the Dartmouth Green Energy Project and seeks credentials from companies interested in bidding on the work. Industry representatives are invited to visit Dartmouth to talk about the project on March 19.

Submissions from firms in response to the RFQ are due in Hanover in mid-April, and three or four firms will be selected in June to submit detailed bids on the project. The bids will be reviewed by College officials and presented to the board of trustees for final approval of the scope of the project and of the private partner.

“We are glad to be this far along in a process that we’ve been working on for eight years,” says Executive Vice President Rick Mills. “This project will not only increase our energy efficiency, it will also  move us to a renewable and localized fuel source that is a far more sustainable option for the environment.”

The new system, which is expected to be in operation in 2025 after two years of construction, would change how heat is produced and delivered on campus, transitioning the College from steam heat to hot-water heat, which College planners say would improve heating efficiency by 20 percent.

The project’s biomass plant would be powered by low-grade residue from logging and sustainable forestry operations. The change in how heat is made and delivered would fulfill part of the April 2017 Earth Day pledge made by President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 to transition Dartmouth to a low-carbon future by making strategic investments in sustainable energy and also in waste management, food systems, land use, transportation, and water systems. Progress toward the College’s green energy future is being made in a number of these other areas, and the work is ongoing.

The green energy pledge includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 2010 levels by 50 percent by 2025 and by 80 percent by 2050; transitioning the heating system from No. 6 fuel oil to renewable sources by 2025; and establishing a better system to distribute energy across campus. The project would allow Dartmouth to meet the 20 percent efficiency goal and transition off No. 6 fuel oil. It is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 2010 levels by about 70 percent, far exceeding the 2025 goal.

The College is seeking to work in partnership with a private company to take advantage of the resources and expertise in the energy industry, enabling the College to focus on its core educational mission. Dartmouth would pay the company to finance, build, and run the green energy system for 30 years.

The project would entail the partner decommissioning the existing heating plant, which has been in use in various forms since 1898. The work includes replacing the heat pipes that distribute steam in most campus buildings, in which some 30 percent of the piping is more than 50 years old. College employees working at the existing plant would be employed by the private company at the new plant and receive wages and benefits that are at or above College levels, according to the RFQ.

The RFQ document asks potential bidders to explain the experiential learning opportunities they would offer students and faculty to enable them to study the project. It also asks companies to consider the feasibility of constructing a biomass plant that would generate electricity in addition to heat.

College officials are open to exploring options to provide heat to others in addition to Dartmouth, for example, Hanover town facilities or public schools. Hanover residents have committed to using 100 percent renewable sources for heat and transportation by 2050 and 100 percent renewable sources for electricity by 2030.

Dartmouth expects to share a short list of potential sites for the proposed plant in the spring for discussion with the College community and Upper Valley residents.

Susan J. Boutwell  can be reached at susan.j.boutwell@dartmouth.edu.

Susan J. Boutwell