National Life to Reduce Carbon Footprint with Biomass Heating System

Biomass Energy Project Will Meet 90% of Heating Needs at National Life Group Headquarters in Vermont.

Montpelier, VT, May 14, 2010 --( National Life Group announced today a biomass energy project that will meet 90 percent of the heating needs of its Montpelier campus while reducing the company's annual carbon footprint by 45 percent.

The $2 million project, scheduled to be completed in late summer, is expected to cut National Life’s annual usage of heating oil from 210,000 gallons to about 30,000 gallons. The company’s $500,000 annual heating bill will be cut roughly in half.

National Life’s 500,000-square-foot headquarters is one of the largest commercial buildings in Vermont.

“This project will reduce our reliance on foreign oil, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and will create jobs in our region by supporting our forest products industry,” said Mehran Assadi, president and CEO of National Life Group.

Governor Jim Douglas, who attended the announcement, praised National Life’s environmental leadership. “This company is a corporate leader when it comes to energy and the environment,” he said, noting that National Life hosts one of the largest solar electricity installations in the state.

Last year the U.S. Green Building Council awarded National Life’s 50-year-old headquarters silver certification under the Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.

National Life's new heating system will use two biomass boilers to burn carbon-neutral woodchips from local renewable sources as fuel. A bin to hold the woodchips will be built below ground near the building's entrance. The biomass energy system is expected to be fully functional by the end of the summer.

The Montpelier-based Biomass Energy Resource Center, BERC, worked closely with National Life in the development of the biomass system. Currently there are more than 70 wood-burning biomass heating and cooling systems in use throughout Vermont, primarily in schools. National Life will be one of only a few commercial office buildings to use such a system.

According to BERC, woodchip biomass systems are carbon neutral and have lower sulfur dioxide and net greenhouse gas emissions than both oil and propane. In addition, a sophisticated electrostatic precipitator and exhaust filtration system will remove on average 98 percent of any particles from the emissions, further minimizing any pollution. However, because the woodchips are green and nearly half water, occasional steam plumes may be released through the building's emissions stack.

According to Tim Shea, who spearheaded the project for National Life, “What is remarkable to me is that we'll be heating approximately 500,000 square feet of building with the biomass system this winter and the emissions will only be that of about 12 woodstoves." Shea said the new biomass system will cost approximately $2 million and will pay for itself in savings within five to six years.

At National Life, environmental stewardship has been a long-standing commitment. In addition to the new biomass system there are numerous employee efforts to lessen the company’s impact on the environment, including recycling shredded paper for reuse as animal bedding and composting food waste. Other energy efficiency projects on the campus include installation of a 73kW solar photovoltaic system to help power the campus, a solar thermal system, water-saving fixtures in the restrooms, energy-saving light ballasts and bulbs, and more efficient air conditioners in the data center.

National Life Group® is a trade name of National Life Insurance Company, Montpelier, VT and its affiliates.

National Life
Chris Graff