The McNeil Generating Station is jointly owned by Burlington Electric Department (operator and 50% owner), Green Mountain Power (31%) and VPPSA (19%). VPPSA’s ownership of the McNeil station is managed as a project of the Authority with costs and benefits allocated to participating members as follows:
There are 40 people employed at the station. Employees include a maintenance crew, equipment operators, fuel handlers, foresters, and administrative and engineering support personnel. A minimum staff of four is needed to operate the station at any given time.
At full load, the plant generates 50 megawatts (MW) of electricity. At full load, approximately 76 tons of wood chips are consumed per hour (about 30 cords).
The plant is capable of operating on combinations of wood, natural gas, and oil. When it is operating at full load on gas, it uses 550,000 cubic feet of gas per hour.
McNeil is equipped with a series of air quality control devices that limit the particulate stack emissions to one-tenth the level allowed by Vermont state regulation. McNeil's emissions are one one-hundredth of the allowable federal level. The only visible emission from the plant is water vapor during the cooler months of the year. In 2008, the McNeil owners voluntarily installed a $12 million Regenerative Selective Catalytic Reduction system, which reduced the plant’s Nitrogen Oxide emissions to 1/3 of the state requirement.
Most of the wood for the plant comes from within 60 miles of the station. Ninety-five percent comes from logging residue and cull material created when harvesting higher-value wood products. Harvests are conducted in accordance with strict environmental standards specified by the Vermont Public Utility Commission.
The wood is chipped at the harvest site and delivered in trailer trucks to the plant or to a railcar loading facility in Swanton, VT. At least 75 percent of the wood is delivered from Swanton to the plant by rail. A small portion arrives in an unprocessed form that can be stored and chipped when needed. McNeil Station also purchases the byproducts of lumber-making such as bark and shavings or clean urban wood waste.
As a recognized renewable resource under Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard and Connecticut’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, the McNeil generating plant represents a key part of the renewable portfolio for those VPPSA members that participate in the project.