Maryville College's Good Wood

An environmental benefit of this plan is that Maryville College is using waste from local companies; this waste does not get dumped in a landfill. Anderson Truss Company sells their remnant lumber pieces to the college for $15 per ton. If Anderson Truss were to take the waste to the landfill, it would cost them $35 per ton for disposal, McCall explains.

Another local vender, Waste Reduction and Recycling, is paid by local businesses to remove their old wooden shipping crates and pallets. After grinding the wood, the vender then sells it to the college as well.

McCall says, "It's a win-win-win situation: the wood waste doesn't go to the landfills, the venders make money, and the operating cost for the college is less than buying gas."

And speaking of cost: When TVA proposed the project, part of the purpose was to provide a cheaper, cleaner energy source. TVA said it would bring savings to the college. McCall says he spends $40,000 to $50,000 per year on wood waste. In the early '90s the college experienced a shortage of wood waste and had to turn on the gas. The cost for one month of burning gas was about $20,000, he says.

McCall admits today's prices may be different. "I may be sitting here with a very expensive system, but I have no proof of that. Using wood still means savings," McCall says.

Burning wood does have extra costs, however. For example, a skidsteer loader must be used to load the wood waste into the plant's furnace. A pipe is all that is needed for gas or oil. But he says that labor costs are the same for gas, oil or wood: someone must be working no matter which is used. "In my mind, there's no reason why the savings aren't still there," he says.