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BENNINGTON - The state has given the green light to a new central heating plant at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.

Regulators this week approved the $3.75 million project to replace three aging, oil-fired burners with energy efficient models that burn on natural gas, a move hospital officials expect will lower the campus' carbon emissions and save $200,000 a year. One of the three new boilers could be used to burn biomass in the future.

The Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) approved SVMC's request for a "certificate of need" on Nov. 28. The state health care regulatory board must approve major healthcare projects.

The project's need "is easily demonstrated in SVMC's application," GMCB members wrote in the decision. "Hospitals cannot offer an adequate quality of care without heat, hot water, and the ability to sterilize equipment. This bedrock, critical infrastructure must be periodically renovated, repaired or replaced." And criteria for reviewing CONs, set by state statute "weigh heavily in favor of approval of this application," they wrote.

Members ruled that the application is consistent with Vermont's Health Resource Allocation Plan; that the cost of the project is reasonable; and that there is a need for the project. The boiler project's site plan was approved by the town's Development Review Board last month after two public hearings.

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The hospital's central utility plant now uses three oil-fired boilers that provide hot water, as well as steam to heat buildings and sterilize medical equipment. The boilers have a 20-year lifespan, but are all over 30-years-old, according to documents filed with the GMCB. And the number 6 fuel oil they burn is "outdated and increasingly difficult to obtain," members wrote in their decision.

The project calls for relocating the new boilers and related infrastructure to a new 3,610-squarefoot prefabricated metal building that will be located on the north end of the hospital campus, to the east of an existing maintenance building and some 200 yards from patient care areas. The oil boilers will be decommissioned and replaced with three new, efficient models that will burn compressed natural gas, or number 2 fuel oil as a backup. Two units would be 400 horsepower. One would be a 500 horsepower "convertible" boiler, which could be modified to burn biomass.

Two 20,000 gallon underground fuel oil tanks will be removed. To be installed are a compressed natural gas decompression station, a 20,000 gallon above ground number 2 fuel oil storage tank, and about 200 yards of steam pipes.

Reach Edward Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111 or @edamon_banner.


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