WATERVILLE — Maine’s Colby College has begun construction of a new biomass heating plant that officials hope will replace about 1 million gallons of heating fuel each year with wood chips and forest waste.

The aim is to move the college much closer to its goal of carbon neutrality by 2015.

It’s expected the $11.25-million facility will pay for itself in six to 10 years.

It is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2011. The plant will burn low-grade forest waste and debris including bark and treetops. The college plans to get the fuel from forest operations within 50 miles of the Waterville campus.

The twin 400-horsepower biomass-fueled boilers will produce steam used for heat, hot water, cooking, and cogeneration of electricity.

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