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The Montshire Museum of Science’s Path to Minimize Its Carbon Footprint

From an energy audit to a new wood pellet boiler heating system and more to come.

The interior of the Montshire Museum of Science. Courtesy photo.

The interior of the Montshire Museum of Science. Courtesy photo.

By Chris Gillespie

This winter will be the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, VTs first being heated by a new wood pellet boiler system.

As stated on the Museums website, the Montshire is located on a 110-acre site near the Connecticut River and is home to more than 140 exhibits relating to the natural and physical sciences, ecology and technology. Originally opened to the public in 1976 in Hanover, NH, the Montshire moved to its current location in Norwich in 1991, where it hosts 160,000 visitors annually.

The Montshires journey to acquiring its wood pellet boiler system started when the Museum adopted a new multiyear strategic plan, with one of the major goals being to strengthen the Museums core base of operations while being aware of and minimizing the Museums carbon footprint.

The Museums first step was to conduct an energy audit, which it completed with the help of Efficiency Vermont and Zero By Degrees, LLC. The audit revealed many different ways the Museum could adapt its operations systems to make them more sustainable. The top two recommendations were to upgrade the Museums atmospheric building control system and install a wood pellet-based heating system.

“The wood pellet-based system was new information for us,” said Marcos Stafne, Ph.D, Executive Director of the Montshire. “[Prior to the audit] we did not think something like that would work for us.”

Following the audits recommendations, the Museum worked with Lyme Green Heat (LGH), a company based in Lyme, NH that specializes in wood pellet boiling systems, to figure out which kind of heating system would be the most effective for the building.

Together, the Montshire and LGH decided to replace the Museums conventional boiler with two 56kW MESys/OkoFEN fully-automated wood pellet boilers and a 16-ton capacity Brock Silo for pellet storage. Given Vermonts cold winters, the Museum opted to keep their small, secondary oil boiler in a mechanical room on the Museums first floor, which will activate in the event that the wood pellet boilers cannot meet the demand on their own when it is frigid outside. Overall, the wood pellet boilers are expected to provide enough energy to heat the entire building 90% of the time.

The Museum’s new wood pellet boilers. Courtesy photo.

The Museum’s new wood pellet boilers. Courtesy photo.

“Our building was not originally built with efficiency in mind,” said Stafne, adding that high efficiency circulator pumps were added to the heating system in order to boost system efficiency. “We want to do the best that we can with the technology today.”

Stafne says that depending on how well the wood pellet boilers perform, they will likely become the centerpiece of some museum programming and, potentially, even become the focus of their own exhibit down the line.

“As a science museum, we always want people to know how their world works,” said Stafne about the Museums choice to embrace renewable energy. “We want people to know about available solutions that help fight big problems like climate change.”

The best way the Montshire can teach people about the steps they can take to reduce their own carbon footprint, according to Stafne, is through programming. The Montshire partners with sustainability advocacy groups and other nonprofit organizations to host meetings where experts and community members can come together to discuss green energy and sustainable living.

As for the future, Stafne says the Museum is going to continue to look at other renewable energy options to see which might be the most effective for the building.

The Montshire Museum of Science is located at 1 Montshire Road, Norwich, VT and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.montshire.org or call 802-649-2200.

Chris Gillespie is a contributing writer for Green Energy Times. He can be reached at chris@greenenergytimes.org.

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