SunWood Biomass in the press!  Times Argus | Vermont Commons

SunWood moves on Biomass Incentive Legislation…

Times Argus

Students warm up to biomass heat

Barre installation provides job training in renewable energy

By WENDY GAITHER – Published: March 17, 2010

Wood is considered a basically carbon-neutral fuel because the amount of carbon released when it burns is about equal to the amount of carbon the tree absorbs as it grows. Since new trees can be grown, wood is also considered a renewable fuel. But where can you pick up some practical information about wood pellet hot water heating systems or biomass heat in general? The opportunity might just come to your school, town hall, or fire department.

SunWood Systems, a small biomass heating company in Waitsfield, has started to offer educational outreach as part of its daily field operation installations at local schools and institutions. The company is also working with Vermont Technical College to help integrate biomass into VTC’s curriculum. As part of that effort, SunWood will install a wood pellet heating system that will be used as a teaching tool at the college.

In Europe, biomass heating systems have been maturing for decades and now account for over 30 percent of the European Union’s heating needs. In the United States, meanwhile, we have been heating primarily with fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal). It’s time to catch up with our European neighbors – and more reason then ever to provide educational opportunities for youth, students and adults making career choices.

Vermont leads the country in volume of institutional wood-heating systems. More that 40 schools in Vermont use some form of wood heat, including pellets, chips, and even just plain old-fashioned firewood. These installations offer a natural teaching opportunity to bring biomass heat to the classroom and, in some cases, the classroom to the biomass heating installation. Some of the schools heated by wood in central Vermont include Barre City Elementary, Spaulding High School in Barre, Barre Town School, Berlin Elementary, East Montpelier Elementary, Randolph Union High School, and U-32 High School in Montpelier.

SunWood Systems founders Marc DiMario and Dave Frank saw that these institutional installations offered an ideal setting for educating young people about biomass heat and, even more importantly, encouraging students to think about future jobs and careers and in the renewable energy sector.

As Dave Frank explains, “We just felt this was this was an excellent opportunity to develop a basic syllabus for a locally available renewable. Currently it’s a fairly immature program, but it’s gradually evolving. With the younger students we keep it basic by identifying the source of biomass and its value as being local and harvested sustainability. Other situations are tailored to the target audience – their needs, interests and age.”

Recently SunWood expanded on its educational outreach effort by partnering up with ReSource, a nonprofit community enterprise formerly known as Recycle North. The goal of ReSource is to sell quality, affordable used goods through an innovative program of repairing and reselling household items that would otherwise be discarded. Beyond simply selling a product and keeping materials out of landfills, the intent is to provide jobs and training for unemployed workers. Students learn ecologically sound skills, such as weatherization, appliance and computer repair, customer service skills, which they then use to provide affordable services to low-income people in central Vermont.

At a new location on Granite Street in the heart of Barre, ReSource is installing a biomass pellet heating system as part of a larger rehabilitation project that is bringing new life to an old granite shed. This new location, called ReStore, has been hosting some unique career training programs as part of the biomass installation process. Participants from these two programs – ReTrain and YouthBuild – shadowed SunWood employees to get a better understanding of the nuts and bolts of the biomass system. Some of the participants also rolled up their sleeves and completed the installation of several integral parts of this complex system themselves.

ReTrain serves individuals who are ready to work but need marketable job skills and work credentials for their desired career. The YouthBuild is for 16- to 24-year-olds who have dropped out of high school and are looking to earn their diploma or GED.

The biomass system at the Granite Street location shows how one company’s educational outreach program can serve several community purposes by installing a sustainable biomass heating system and offering job training and career opportunities at the same time. The ReStore facility will eventually house a reuse operation offering household goods, appliances, building materials, and art supplies – as well as education and training programs to unemployed or underemployed individuals. But at least part of that goal has already been realized in the process of addressing its heating requirements in an environmentally sustainable and community-oriented manner.

Wendy Gaither is a freelance writer who can be reached at SunWood Systems, a biomass renewable energy company with over 120 installations throughout Vermont, is developing an educational outreach program to inspire, train, and teach about biomass and biomass heat. For more information contact David Frank or Marc DiMario at 583-9300 or

Vermont Commons

Gaelan Brown Interviews Sun Systems’ Marc DiMario: Sun Is Number One, and Wood Is Good (Energy Solutions for a 21st C. Vermont)

Submitted by Rob Williams on Thu, 10/30/2008 – 8:24pm.

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