A proposed new plant in Salisbury, Vermont, would convert cow manure into methane to heat a college.

The Times Argus reports that Montpelier-based Lincoln Renewable Gas has applied to the state Public Service Board for permission to build a methane-processing facility on land leased from Goodrich Farm.

The plant would convert cow manure from that farm, and others nearby, into natural bio-methane gas that would be carried through an underground transmission line to the town of Middlebury. The primary customer, Middlebury College, plans to use the energy source to replace about 640,000 gallons of heating oil per year, supplying 40 percent of its heating needs.

Another customer, local gas supplier Vermont Gas Systems, would purchase 25 percent of the gas produced by the Salisbury facility, which can be used in natural gas pipelines.

"The gas is interchangeable. How it's used and how it performs is the same as natural gas," explained Dan Smith, president of Lincoln Renewable Gas.

Before reaching a decision on the proposal, state officials will investigate the methane pipeline's exact route from Salisbury to Middlebury to determine whether it is suitable for development.

Chris Recchia, commissioner of the Public Service Department, which represents the public interest in energy and other matters, said that this project is the type of development his office wants to encourage.

"This is a way to bring renewable gas into the pipeline, and we want to promote that for the future," he told the Times Argus.