October 21, 2015 was the third annual National Bioenergy Day.  The Virginia Community Wood Energy Program led staff from federal, state and local governments on a tour of three Southside institutions that are using wood and grass fuels to provide cost effective heat energy while keeping their energy dollars in the local economy and improving the health of the regional forests and fields.  The tour was organized for public facilities staff considering boiler replacement and the agencies that support them to be able to discuss the pros and cons of bioenergy systems. The tour began at the Blackstone Conference and Retreat Center in Blackstone, Va, then went to Piedmont Geriatric Hospital, in Burkeville, VA and ended at Longwood University in Farmville, Va.

Sam McCracken discusses fuel and fuel delivery

Sam McCracken (center) discusses fuel and fuel delivery at Blackstone Conference and Retreat Center

In 2013, the Virginia United Methodist Assembly Center in Blackstone, replaced their aging fuel oil boiler with a modern, fully-automated wood chip fueled system.  The new boiler is saving them over $100,000 a year while providing them a reliable, year-round supply of hot water and space heating.  The Piedmont Geriatric Hospital in Burkeville has been heating with sawdust for over 25 years.  Recently staff has pioneered the use of locally grown Native Warm Season Grasses for winter time fuel, saving the Commonwealth over $40,000 a year while driving the restoration of Bobwhite Quail habitat in Southside.  Longwood University has been using sawdust for over 30 years to heat the campus right in the middle of Farmville.  Longwood’s wood-fueled system saves them millions of dollars per year and supported the local forest products industry through the recession.

Charlie Cushwa discusses native warm season grasses with participants at Piedmont Geriatric Hospital

Charlie Cushwa (left) discusses native warm season grasses with participants at Piedmont Geriatric Hospital

 

National Bioenergy Day unites organizations all across the country that support bioenergy, inviting them to open their doors to their communities to demonstrate the many benefits bioenergy provides on the local level.

Longwood Heat Plant Employees (Manager, Dennis Kennedy, left)

Longwood University Heat Plant Employees (Manager, Dennis Kennedy, left)