You can now read 10 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

The Boston Globe

Opinion

Joan wickersham

How to boil water — and heat a college campus

A lesson in biomass, up close

‘Biomass” is a term that floats through newspaper stories and earnest cocktail party conversations and indignant online debates. But how many of us have had the chance to see what it actually is and how it works? When I noticed the words “Biomass Maintenance Building” on the campus map of Bennington College, where I was teaching this month, I couldn’t resist checking it out.

It was January, it was Vermont, it was cold. I walked, shivering, down the hill to a modest-looking wood-and-metal building. The first thing I saw was a big pile of wood chips in the driveway. The first thing I heard from operations manager Todd Siclari was that those wood chips — the biomass — provide 85 percent of the heat for Bennington’s campus.

Loading comments...

You have reached the limit of 10 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week