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Wood burning our way toward net zero energy consumption - Bethany Birches Camp

Wood burning our way toward net zero energy consumption

I have some great news about the pavilion project: we have no debt!  Thanks to Bob’s walk and a very generous donor we were able to pay off the last $100,000 of debt this fall.  That allows us to focus resources directly toward program again and also start working toward the miscellaneous parts of the pavilion project we decided to phase to save money and time during the initial construction.  Those remaining parts include a climbing wall, air exchangers, kitchen equipment and a wood boiler.  The wood boiler is our focus right now.

Why a wood boiler?  It can provide zero-dollar and net-zero emissions heat!  Here in Plymouth, VT winters are cold!  We also have lots of trees on the property.  One of our foresters estimates we could cut 70 cords per year at a sustainable rate (in other words, the forest grows that much new wood each year).  We estimate we will use 15 to 20 cords total for fireside cooking, other camp fires and heat.  If volunteers continue to cut wood as they have for many years we can provide all the fuel needed to heat the entire facility for almost zero dollars (we’ll have to buy diesel for the tractor and gas for the chainsaws of course).

Utilizing plumbers, engineers and the latest trends in the wood burning industry we have designed a central boiler system that will heat the pavilion, cabin and a third building of our choosing at about 85% efficiency.  By comparison, many wood heating systems operate from 50-70% efficiency.  Not only will this system be very efficient when it’s operating, the wood we’ll burn will take very little energy to process (from tree to fire will take only two handlings, very little transportation and fossil fuel).  On top of that we will be able to gently harvest the trees in our forest that are dying or in poor health meaning we get to use the carbon stored in the tree just before it dies and that carbon gets released anyway.  In short, our process for burning wood can be considered carbon-neutral or net zero.

If you can’t tell, I’m very excited about this (and totally geeking out… sorry if you’re bored).  For those of you who are excited with me, please consider giving toward this project.  Our estimated cost for the infrastructure including foundation, shed, underground pipes to pavilion, boiler etc., utilizing a lot of volunteers, is $50,000. It would cost additional to install in the cabin and a third building.  Any donated materials make this number smaller of course. Heating the pavilion with wood will save us about $7000 per year assuming propane price of $1.60.  As prices rise and/or we heat more spaces our savings will grow.  That means a pay back on the system of less than 7 years.

Please consider making a gift toward this important project.  At time of writing $10,717 has been given toward the project.  You could make a one time gift, or, perhaps you would consider making a monthly contribution for a year or two years. If 55 people would give $30 per month for two years, the project would be paid for!  Consider it one way you can help the environment and young people at the same time.

~ Brandon Bergey, Executive Director

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