Renewable Heat NY Funds 18 Woody Biomass Projects

SOURCE: BBI International

February 20, 2014

ORLANDO, FL – (Feb. 20 2014) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced 18 projects that receive funding through the Renewable Heat NY program, to help install high-efficiency, low-emission wood-fired heating equipment, according to a recent article in Biomass Magazine.

The funding is being awarded through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Energy and Environmental Performance of Biomass-fired Heating Equipment program.

Besides helping cover costs of advanced biomass heating systems, Renewable Heat NY is being designed to facilitate workforce training and manufacturer support for field testing, equipment certification and early stage product development. NYSERDA is developing a Biomass Heating Roadmap for the state, which is slated for release later this year and will assess policy strategies and economic and environmental impacts.

Award recipients to date include:
Clarkson University, Potsdam, $80,000. This project will study the presence of carbon monoxide in wood pellet storage facilities and in the laboratory due to offgassing, and investigate methods to improve air quality in pellet storage areas.

Clarkson University, Saranac Lake, $267,500. Two fully automatic high-efficiency and low-emission wood pellet boilers made by Evoworld will be installed in residential locations by Clarkson University. One boiler will be placed in a shipping container outside one of the homes, while the second boiler will be placed in the basement of a second home. This project will evaluate for two years the performance and emissions of these units under the cold winter conditions.

The Wild Center & Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks, Tupper Lake, $126,000. Recipients will add two 850-gallon tanks of thermal storage to an existing combined pellet boiler and solar thermal project at the Wild Center. The program will evaluate the improved efficiency of this system for two heating seasons, which is expected to approach 85 percent. Clarkson University will perform the third party evaluation.

Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, Lake Placid, $190,000. This project will study the winter characteristics of wood smoke particulate matter concentrations in a rural valley community over two winters. Monitoring will identify weather conditions leading to high wood smoke, and help address air quality and public health planning needs. Research Foundation of SUNY Canton, Canton, $163,000. Fully automatic wood pellet heating systems will be installed in three buildings in St. Lawrence County to demonstrate how these systems will operate.

Northeast Forests LLC, Thendara, $98,000. This project will evaluate the costs and processes involved in producing and supplying low-moisture content wood chips. The results will be shared with the forest product community.

Vincent’s Heating & Fuel Service LLC, Poland, $110,000. Vincent’s will purchase an 8-ton, wood pellet delivery truck to expand its residential and commercial delivery capacity, expanding the bulk wood pellet market in upstate New York. NYSERDA funds will be used to give the truck the pneumatic ability to deliver bulk pellets.

Cornell Cooperative Extension, Ithaca, $66,000. The project will replace older wood stoves and a few outdoor wood boilers in the region with wood pellet stoves and wood pellet boilers that provide higher efficiency and lower emissions.

Finger Lakes Research Conservation and Development Council, Bath, $97,000. This project will evaluate a commercial biomass boiler designed for grasses, examining both thermal efficiency and emissions performance when burning grass pellets produced in the Southern Tier.

University at Buffalo Research Foundation, Buffalo, $300,000. The university is working with Econoburn to develop a commercial two-stage wood hydronic heater with improved combustion chamber design and added sensors and controls to improve efficiency and lower emissions.

Hydronic Specialty Supply, Cassadaga, $227,500. This project will develop residential and commercial firewood gasification boilers that can maintain high efficiency and low emissions due to an innovative staged-combustion design with smart sensors and controls for optimizing performance. These boilers, coupled with thermal storage, are expected to demonstrate results of double the efficiency of conventional wood boiler technologies, and a corresponding decrease in wood use.

Advanced Wood Combustion Technologies LLC, East Aurora, $49,000. The project goal is to create a two-stage retrofit prototype for single stage outdoor wood boilers that can become commercially viable. The goal of the retrofit is to increase thermal efficiency by 40 percent and greatly reduce fine particle and carbon monoxide emissions.

University of Rochester, Rochester, $300,000. The University of Rochester’s Medical Center will study community levels of ambient wood smoke and its link to cardiovascular disease. Previous URMC studies in Rochester found that 30 percent of wintertime fine particulate matter was from wood smoke.

Clarkson University, Syracuse, $102,000. Clarkson will evaluate a commercial pellet boiler that has an electrostatic precipitator emission control technology, which is part of the 8 MMBtu combined-heat-and-power (CHP) system at SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry’s new Gateway building. Emissions from both premium wood pellets and willow pellets will be examined. Data will benefit a companion Cornell University air quality modeling project.

Cornell University, Syracuse, $125,000. This project, in conjunction with the previous Clarkson project, will conduct field measurements of the CHP system at SUNY ESF during the use of two types of wood pellet fuels. The goal is to advance air quality modeling capabilities for use in urban environments.

College of Science and Forestry, Syracuse, $150,000. This project will evaluate hot water extraction and flue gas drying technology as an alternative to conventional wood chip drying methods, as the hot water extraction process is one way to reduce ash content. Replicated results with many species indicate a very significant ash reduction for all conditions studied in this project. Reducing the moisture content in wood chips is essential for better combustion and higher performance for advanced wood chip-fired heating units.

Brookhaven National Lab/The Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, Upton, $300,000. This project will develop a more accurate and realistic test method for biomass heating systems, which is needed to more accurately evaluate advanced wood heating systems. The lack of such a test remains a significant market barrier for these high-efficiency, low-emissions systems. The work will also result in a lowered cost of testing for manufacturers.

The U.S. EPA’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory has also received $150,000 to help evaluate the efficiency and emissions performance of a pellet hydronic heater using multiple fuel sources including hardwood pellets and three different types of non-woody biomass from New York. This project will inform policy makers at the federal and state level about the performance of non-woody biomass as a fuel source for heating.

This topic and more will be discussed at the International Biomass Conference & Expo, taking place March 24-26 in Orlando, FL. You can view the online agenda at www.BiomassConference.com.

The conference will also be exploring pellet supply chains and bioenergy project development during two co-located events. These events are titled Pellet Supply Chain Summit and the Bioenergy Project Development Seminar. To learn more visit www.BiomassConference.com.

About BBI International:
Founded in 1995, BBI International produces globally recognized bioenergy events and trade magazines. In addition to the International Biomass Conference & Expo and its allied regional events, BBI owns and operates the largest, longest-running ethanol conference in the world — the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo (FEW) — and the National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo. The company publishes Biomass Magazine, Ethanol Producer Magazine, Pellet Mill Magazine, and Biodiesel Magazine, as well as a number of ancillary products including maps, directories, e-newsletters and other web-based industry resources.

Contact Information
John Nelson, jnelson@bbiinternational.com
866-746-8385

Propane drought: other methods of heating readily available

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) — A harsh propane drought, resulting in shortages and rapidly rising prices, has left many northlanders searching for alternative sources of heat.
Mark Jeronimus, owner of The Fireplace Corner in Duluth, sells gas, wood, pellet, and electric fireplaces… all alternative forms of heating over the typical furnace.

He says in the past, nearly 75% of sales were from gas fireplaces, but this winter that has changed due to the polar vortex.

“Just because of the real extremes we’ve got, and with lack of fuel in certain areas, and cost of fuel even when it’s available. So pellet has just exploded again,” said Jeronimus.

He says pellet fuel is the most reliable type of fuel out there today.

“It’s a compressed wood, it’s extremely dry so it doesn’t have the creosote issues that a wood burning unit has. It’s inexpensive to operate, and it doesn’t demand the class A flue. It can be vented directly out the wall much like our gas fireplaces can,” he says.

For Ben Jorgenson, a young man living in Duluth, the severe shortage of propane has had a major effect.
“We had our furnace go out twice, it’s fuel oil, so in addition to it being out we have to fill the tank frequently,” said Jorgenson.

He also says 100 gallons of fuel costs about $400, putting a large dent in his pocketbook.
“We just threw a space heater in the upstairs bedroom and just hung out in there, so we didn’t spend much time out,” said Jorgenson.

Jeronimus says infrared space heaters are extremely efficient during times like these.
“Inexpensive, quick, easy, put it in, anybody can operate it, and it’s safe.”

As for Jorgenson, it’s all about keeping up on keeping the fuel tank full, which will cost a great deal of money for the remainder of the winter.

“I hope we have an early spring.”

Anyone having problems affording home heating this winter can call the energy assistance program in their county to see if they quality for aid.

Read the original article and watch the video here.

Natural Gas Soars as Cold Grips Nation

From USA TODAY.

Energy analysts blame record demand, record withdrawals from storage and risks to short-term production.

NEW YORK (AP) — The frigid winter of 2014 is setting the price of natural gas on fire.

The price in the futures market soared to $5.18 per 1,000 cubic feet Friday, up 10% to the highest level in three and a half years. The price of natural gas is up 29% in two weeks, and is 50% higher than last year at this time.

Record amounts of natural gas are being burned for heat and electricity. Meanwhile, it’s so cold that drillers are struggling to produce enough to keep up with the high demand. So much natural gas is coming out of storage that the Energy Department says supplies have fallen 20 percent below a year ago — and that was before this latest cold spell.

“We’ve got record demand, record withdrawals from storage, and short-term production is threatened,” says energy analyst Stephen Schork. “It’s a dangerous market right now.”

Natural gas and electric customers are sure to see somewhat higher rates in the coming months. But they will be insulated from sharp increases because regulators often force natural gas and electric utilities to use financial instruments and fuel-buying strategies that protect residential customers from high volatility.
To understand the price increase, just look at the thermometer. A second major cold snap this month is gripping much of the country, including the heavily-populated Northeast. And forecasters are now predicting colder weather in the weeks to come, extending south through Texas.

Natural gas is used by half the nation’s households for heating, making it the most important heating fuel. Electricity is the second most popular heating source, and electric power generators use natural gas to generate power more than any other fuel except for coal.

Commodity Weather Group, which predicts heating demand for energy companies and consumers, said in a report Friday that periodic breaks in the cold weather are expected to be “weaker and briefer, extending the duration of colder weather” in late January and early February.

There are a couple of other factors at play. In the past, much of U.S. natural gas was produced in the Gulf of Mexico. If weather disrupted supplies there, it was typically in the early fall, during hurricane season, when heating and electricity demand are low and natural gas storage facilities are mostly full in preparation for winter.

Now, much of U.S. production comes from on-shore formations that are more susceptible to cold, ice and snow. Wells that are not designed for such extreme conditions can freeze, halting production.

“Now the threat to production is when demand is at its highest,” Schork says.

Also, electric utilities have for several years been switching to cheaper natural gas for power generation. And new pipelines aren’t being built fast enough to deliver all the gas required at times of high demand. That can lead to regional shortages that send prices skyrocketing.

In some producing regions in Pennsylvania gas was selling for below national benchmarks Friday, But closer to East Coast cities it was selling for 10 times those benchmarks because producers couldn’t get their gas into packed pipelines, according to Citibank energy analyst Anthony Yuen.

When the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Station in Maryland shut down earlier this week because of an electrical problem brought on by snow and ice, power generators across the East Coast scrambled to replace the lost power by cranking up natural gas-fired plants. That sent natural gas prices for immediate delivery, known as the spot price, to a record $120 per 1,000 cubic feet in some markets on the East Coast. To put that in perspective, that’s equivalent to oil at more than $700 per barrel.

Analysts say there is plenty of gas to replenish supplies, and drillers will likely ramp up production so they can fetch prices they haven’t seen since June of 2010.

That could push prices back down somewhat in the coming weeks. If, that is, the weather warms up later in February and March. If it’s still cold when baseball season opens in early April, though, Schork says, “we’ll be looking at much higher natural gas prices.”

Read the original article here.

Lignetics Achieves PFI Standards Designation

On November 8, 2011, the Pellet Fuels Institute announced the launch of the PFI Standards Program, a third-party accreditation program providing specifications for residential and commercial-grade fuel.

The American Lumber Standard Committee (ALSC) serves as the program’s accreditation body, providing program implementation and enforcement, as well as facilitating program enrollment.

Lignetics has been accredited by a PFI Standards Program auditing agency and are permitted to display the Quality Mark on their bags of fuel found in the marketplace.

  • Linn, West Virginia Facility (Registration Number:   03304)

  • Kenbridge, Virginia Facility (Registration Number:  03434)

  • Sandpoint,  Idaho Facility (Registration Number:  03208)

Program Documents
There are three main documents that serve as the basis of the program. These documents have been modified over the last year and contain a variety of new information.

Pellet Fuels Institute Standard Specification for Residential/Commercial Densified Fuel This document is the backbone of the program. It outlines the actual grade parameter test method requirements for densified fuels registered in the program.

Pellet Fuels Institute Residential/Commercial Densified Fuel QA/QC Handbook Provides quality control and quality assurance procedures for the production of residential /commercial densified fuels.

American Lumber Standard Committee, Incorporated, Residential/Commercial Densified Fuel Enforcement Regulations This document outlines the roles and responsibilities of the auditing agencies, the laboratories, and the oversight requirements of the Accreditation Body.

A fourth document, the North American Grading and Quality Management System for Residential/Commercial Densified Fuel, should be used as a supplemental reference tool. It outlines the roles of all program entities.

PFI Standards Background

PFI initiated redevelopment of its standards in 2005 and has implemented a program that has been proposed to be incorporated by reference into the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for Residential Wood Heaters. EPA is mandating the regulation of pellet fuel through its NSPS and has voiced its support of the PFI Standards Program for inclusion in the NSPS. A draft of the NSPS is expected to be released by EPA in Summer 2013.

For the purposes of the NSPS, pellets that are tested through the PFI Standards Program are assured to be qualified to a specified grade and can be properly matched to the appliances that are permitted to burn them.

The PFI Standards Program addresses the needs of consumers, fuel and appliance manufacturers and the EPA. The greatest differences between previous programs and the current program include: independent third party inspections, sampling, testing and overall program oversight. Many key components of the earlier program remain intact.

Questions?
Pellet Fuels Institute
703-522-6778
pfimail@pelletheat.org
American Lumber Standard Committee
301-972-1700
alsc@alsc.org

EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook on Biomass Power

From Biomass Magazine online
By Kolby Hoagland | January 03, 2014

EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook on Biomass Power

By Kolby Hoagland | January 03, 2014

With the new year, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) offers the early release of their energy production and consumption forecasts for the United States all the way to 2040 in the Annual Energy Outlook (AEO). Last year’s AEO predicted a sharp increase in the use of biomass fuel in cofire scenarios at coal fired generation plants. EIA assumed that state and federal emissions regulation would demand carbon emissions mitigation by cofiring biomass with coal. As can be seen in the graph below, EIA continues to predict a steady increase in cofiring of biomass based on current policy trajectories. The 2014 AEO forecast for cofiring is slightly delayed and smoother than 2013 but continues to project that cofiring will have the greatest influence on the growth of the biomass sector with an annual growth rate of 14.5%.

The 2014 AEO also forecasts growth of biomass use in non-grid connected, industry generated biomass power. Private industry currently possesses close to two times more biomass power generating capacity for its private use than the biomass power sector can put onto the grid. Industry’s production capacity for private use totaled 4.9 gigawatts in 2012, while grid-connected biomass power capacity rates in at 2.7 gigawatts. A number of companies in the paper and pulp industry along with other large wood and biomass industries produce all the electricity that they use onsite and do not put any of their capacity onto the grid. As the graph below indicates, the 2014 AEO forecasts further growth of private generation capacity of biomass power.  Non-grid connected biomass power generation has an annual growth rate of 2.9% while grid-connected biomass power’s growth rate is 0.9%. I will go out on limb and assume that the risk price spikes and purchasing electricity on the open market influences large corporations with access to biomass fuel to pursue private generation.

Agenda set for 2014 International Biomass Conference & Expo

By BBI International | December 23, 2013

BBI International announced this week the agenda for the technical sessions of the 7th annual International Biomass Conference & Expo, North America’s largest and fastest growing biomass conference, taking place March 24-26 in Orlando, Fla. The 2014 agenda—featuring four comprehensive tracks—is

tightly focused on leading edge developments in the biomass industry, from feedstock cultivation, harvest and storage to conversion technology, project finance and regulatory guidance. 

The 2014 main program will include 30-plus panels and more than 100 speakers, including 90 technical presentations, all within the structured framework of four informative tracks:



Track 1: Pellets & Densified Biomass
Track 2: Biomass Power & Thermal

Track 3: Biogas & Landfill Gas 

Track 4: Advanced Biofuels & Biobased Chemicals 



“Our agenda already boasts more than 100 of this industry’s sharpest minds and we haven’t even published the agendas of the two pre-conference seminars that we’ll be hosting on the Monday preceding the event. When it’s all said and done, we’ll have more than 150 speakers and moderators on our various agendas,” says Tim Portz, vice president of content and executive editor for BBI International. “Watching the International Biomass Conference & Expo agenda come together is always a humbling, yet a gratifying experience. I’m grateful for the incredible biomass experts that continue to support this event with their expertise.”



In addition to the main conference agenda and expo hall, BBI has added two preconference events. The first is called the Pellet Supply Chain Summit, which is focused on what is arguably the hottest and fastest growing segment of the biomass industry. The second event is called the Bioenergy Project Development Seminar that will focus on projects either proposed or currently under construction in the biomass industry. “Because of the addition of the two preconference events, many new faces are expected to be at this year’s show,” says John Nelson, director of marketing at BBI International. “Having such a large pool of industry experts to draw upon has allowed us the opportunity to create both a strong main conference and preconference agenda. We are excited to be announcing the preconference seminar lineups soon.” 

To view the agenda for the technical sessions, visit:
www.biomassconference.com 



Getting Green Heat to Main Street

By Chris Hanson Biomass Magazine December 17, 2013

In the Northern Forest region of New Hampshire and the western foothills of Maine, the Northern Forest Center’s Model Neighborhood Project is helping residents switch from fuel oil to wood pellet boilers and fostering growth in the pellet industry.

The project began as a collaboration between the Northern Forest Center and Maine Energy Systems. “We were hearing there needed to be more places for people to sell and use low-grade wood in order to make forestry more viable,” says Maura Adams, program director at Northern Forest Center. “So we had been thinking about pellets and wood heat and ended up talking to Maine Energy Systems about an idea they’ve been developing on incentivizing residential wood pellet boiler purchase and installation. The two ideas kind of fused as we figured out that creating this demonstration project was needed to bring attention to these systems and show how valuable they are.” 

Berlin, N.H., was selected for the first project because of its forest product legacy, the Berlin BetterBuildings program and the economic hardships facing the city after a paper mill closure, Adams says. By teaming up with BetterBuildings, Northern Forest’s project was able to make a larger impact by combining fuel switching with energy efficiency improvements.

Instead of large heating projects, the Berlin program focuses primarily on household systems, while including two affordable housing units and a community arts center.  Adams says by including the three larger projects, the program demonstrates greater economic impact and serves as a more comprehensive community model. “For the residential part, as a condition of participation, they open their houses to tours. That’s kind of the point of the project,” Adams explains. “People need to see these systems at work, to see what they look like and understand they’re not traditional wood stoves, they’re not traditional pellet stoves, but these are very, very modern sophisticated systems that can be a direct replacement for oil boilers.” 

By the end of the year, Berlin witnessed the installation of 40 pellet boilers and now serves as a model for surrounding communities. The Forest Center and the Western Maine Community Action agency launched a second Model Neighborhood Project in June at Farmington and Wilton, Maine, roughly 80 miles east of Berlin. A third project is in its inception west of Berlin in Vermont. The future projects will include multiple vendors to create a more competitive market place, Adams adds.

Delivering the Fuel
For pellet producers and equipment providers such as Geneva Wood Fuels and Maine Energy Systems, the Berlin project has helped validate pellet heating technology and provide opportunities to participate in the supply chain.

Geneva Wood Fuels has been involved since the inception of the Berlin Neighborhood Project, says Jonathan Kahn, president, when MES approached the company to help secure a pellet supply. The wood pellets produced by Geneva at its Strong, Maine, facility are shipped by MES to its distribution point in Bethel, Maine, using converted cement trailers that carry 33 tons of fuel. The distribution center is comprised of 250-ton silos and a shaker system that cleans the pellets by removing any sawdust or particles. The separated sawdust is then put in a separate holding silo and returned to a mill to be repelletized. 

From Bethel, MES uses its bulk delivery operation to deliver to customers in the Berlin area. MES employs three pneumatic trucks that were built at Trans-Tech Industries in Brewer, Maine. The European-style trucks, designed by Austria-based Tropper Maschinen und Anlagen GmbH, employ a specialized aeration chamber to deliver pellets utilizing a moving air stream. “They basically float all the way from the truck into a bag that’s specially designed to breathe,” says Les Otten, co-founder of Maine Energy Systems. “So the pellet goes in, the air breathes out of the side of the bag without any dust. The only thing the home owner is left with after delivery is a faint smell of pine or hardwood in the storage area.” By using flowing air instead of mechanical delivery methods, pellets maintain greater integrity. The key is to get the pellet from one location to another without having it contact a mechanical device, Otten says. “Every time a pellet touches a mechanical device, it loses about two to three percent of its efficiency to sawdust.” 

The trucks are able to deliver the pellets up to 100 feet away from a structure and even send  them 75 to 80 feet uphill, if needed. The pressurized vehicles deliver fuel at roughly 3.5 minutes per ton via the delivery hose hooked to the side of the building. The driver uses a remote control to operate the truck, filling the storage bag inside the facility. 

Pellet Success
One of the larger, energy success stories from the Berlin Model Neighborhood Project is the St. Kieran Community Center for the Arts. Housed in a historic 19th century church, the community center had two boilers used for heat, with the largest heating the main zone, combusting 6 to 7 gallons of heating oil per hour. “It was like having a dragon in the basement,” says Joan Chamberlain, retired executive director of the community center. “Once it fired up, it rattled and things all happened.”

To address rising fuel costs, the community center completed the first phase of its path to pellet heating between 2010 and 2011 by completing a comprehensive feasibility study. The center examined available heating options and spoke with the forest service about becoming a model project. “Berlin is the center of the Northern Forest, it just kind of makes intuitive sense,” Chamberlain says. “The auditor played out that scenario and bought that as the most viable solution.” 

After securing the needed funding, the center completed the second phase of its project, installing the two new pellet boilers and storage bags. The contractors moved in the new boilers and built the storage room using a portion of the basement’s walk-out community room. By locating the fuel storage in the basement, the center is able to quickly receive fuel and avoid maintaining an outdoor storage facility, Chamberlain says. “Deliveries are slick. They deliver like they do oil.”

MES delivers the fuel through four-inch pipes on the north side of the center that initially stood about 18 inches above ground. The delivery personnel turn off the boilers and run the truck’s hoses from the street to the pipes that lead directly to the two 6-ton storage bags. After snow piled up in front of the delivery pipes, the center modified the pipes by extending them to 4 feet to be ready for the current winter season. “It’s a new process and product for all of us,” Chamberlain says. “It was a great learning process for my board and our partners.”

In the third phase of the project, insulation was installed throughout the building. During an assessment of the ceiling, it was discovered there were 10 to 12 inches of space in some sections that had no insulation, letting heat escape through the arched roof. “Years ago, they just didn’t worry about it,” she says.

With the new insulation and pellet boilers in place, the center saves around $10,000 in annual heating costs. During the first winter, the center used $7,300 worth of pellets and still ended the season with 6 to 7 tons left over. Furthermore, by having two boilers, the facility is able to meet the heating demands for the coldest parts of the winter and use one as a backup in the event the other needs to be shut down.

“It’s allowing us to be in our home during some of our best programming months,” Chamberlain says. “This opportunity to get a handle on our energy costs, is allowing us to have a comfortable environment for our guests and our artists and operate comfortably and efficiently during the winter months.”

Industry Impact
By creating these model projects, the forest center and its partners are not only demonstrating the benefits of wood pellet boilers, but also addressing some of the infrastructure and financial challenges of the wood pellet industry. “The whole goal of the project is to catalyze the market and industry for small-scale pellet boilers. It’s really an untapped opportunity at this point,” Adams says. She adds the projects help build infrastructure by assuring adequate amounts of available fuel and delivery methods, while also addressing financial institutions and insurance companies’ comfort with the technology. “As we deal with this, almost like a test case in these particular communities, we are working through a lot of issues so that we can then expand it and make it more widespread.”

In anticipation of larger bulk orders, Geneva Wood Fuels has built a large holding silo for wood pellets. “The growth of pellets has definitely been going up in a big way, with our business and specifically in bulk,” Kahn says. “We’re up almost 50 percent this year in our bulk volume. It’s really grown, and I think some of our competitors have similar experiences.”

The neighborhood projects work to foster greater customer density that may help boost the bulk pellet delivery infrastructure. “If you create the density and you have several folks looking for delivery in the same area, it incentivizes that equipment,” Kahn says. “This is a great jumpstart to the introduction of pellets into a community.”  By becoming involved in similar projects, pellet producers are able to organically grow their customer base and the industry, Kahn says. “It’s really one customer at a time on the domestic side,” he says. It’s one thing for customers to read about pellet growth, but seeing the technology in action is a big influence on growing the industry, he adds. “When it’s tangible, and you see your neighbors doing it, it just grows the market.”

Word of mouth has helped make the Berlin project become a success. When Maine Energy Systems sells a boiler system, the customer is sometimes the next person to sell a boiler, Otten says.  “Seeing is believing. The Northern Forest Center project is probably the best example in the United States of how well that can work.”

Author: Chris Hanson
Staff Writer, Pellet Mill Magazine
701-738-4970
chanson@bbiinternational.com

EIA predicts increased use of wood biomass in 2014

By Erin Voegele Biomass Magazine

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has released the December issue of its Short-Term Energy Outlook, predicting that energy production from wood biomass and waste biomass will increase next year.

According to the STEO, wood biomass is expected to be used to generate 111,000 megawatt hours (MWh) per day of energy a

cross all sectors next year, up from 105,000 MWh per day this year. In 2012, wood biomass was used to produce 103,000 MWh per day.

The EIA predicts waste biomass will be used to generate 56,000 MWh per day of electricity in 2014, up from 54,000 MWh per day this year. Last year, waste biomass was used to generate 54,000 MWh of electricity per day.

The electric power sector is expected to consume 0.218 quadrillion Btu (quad) of wood biomass next year, up from 0.187 quad this year. The sector is also forecast to consume 0.261 quad of waste biomass in 2014, up from 0.250 quad this year.

The industrial sector is predicted to consume 1.232 quad of wood biomass next year, down slightly from 1.284 quad this year. The consumption of waste biomass is also expected to fall from 0.174 quad this year to 0.170 quad next year.

The EIA predicts the commercial sector will consume 0.063 quad of wood biomass next year, up from 0.062 quad this year. Waste biomass consumption is expected to hold steady next year at the 2013 consumption level of 0.046 quad.

The residential sector is forecast to consume 0.414 quad of wood biomass, down slightly from 0.420 quad this year.

During the 2013-’14 winter, the EIA predicts 2.648 million households will rely on wood as a primary heating fuel, up 2.5 percent from last winter, when 2.582 million households used wood as a primary heating fuel.

In the West region of the U.S., 750,000 households are expected to use wood as a primary heating fuel, up 1.1 percent from last year. In the South, 632,000 homes are expected to rely on the fuel as a primary heat source, up 3 percent from last winter. The use of wood is expected to remain at last winter’s 632,000 home rate in the Midwest. The use of wood will increase most significantly this winter in the Northeast, where 632,000 households are expected to use wood as a primary heating fuel, up 6.6 percent from last winter.

View the original article and link to the chart here.

Wood Stove Decathlon: panelists talk heating with pellets

By Anna Simet, Biomass Magazine

In some areas, pellet stoves are selling faster than wood stoves, and that’s for a few reasons, one of which is the complexity of cordwood.

At the Wood Stove Decathalon in Washington, D.C., Nov. 16-19, a panel of experts discussed growth of residential pellet heating, some pros and cons, as well its current role in U.S. renewable energy generation.

John Crouch, Pellet Fuels Institute director of public affairs, discussed the varying properties of cordwood and how pellets offer consumers a more uniform fuel. “There are differences between species [of cordwood]—hardwood and softwood—and even just species of hardwood alone, “Crouch said. “This piece of fuel even varies in moisture and density within itself. We know, for instance, you can move the pins on the moisture meter just a few inches and get a 2 to 3 percent difference in the same piece of fuel. That’s part of what makes the stove so challenging, is the fuel is infinitely variable.”

People began reconstituting sawdust for energy purposes around 20 years ago, he said, into a more predictable fuel—pellets. 

Panel speaker Richard Thomas of Courtwood Hardware, who has been active in the pellet industry since inception, has sold more pellet stoves than any other individual in the U.S., Crouch said.

Thomas said he has been heating his own home with pellets since 1988, and Courtwood has 10,000 active pellet stove customers. Being that one ton of pellets equals 2.8 barrels of oil, last year his company prevented 25,000 barrels of oil from being consumed in Maryland. “Nationally, we’re [the U.S.] using about 2 million tons of pellets per year, and that’s replacing about 5.6 million barrels of oil,” he said.

Thomas noted that appliance installation is simple and inexpensive, and pellet stoves are generally very safe and easy to use and operate. “You can put them in any area of your house where you want to be comfortable so you don’t have to raise the thermostat and temperature of your entire house. But we do have pellet boilers and furnaces that can heat a whole house, 3,000 square feet.”

There are many homeowners in Maryland who are spending three times more to heat their house with electricity than they would with pellets, Thomas added. “We are selling appliances than can heat homes very efficiently, actually ending up in savings as much as $400 per month.”

Pellets cost approximately $15.97 per MMBtu, compared to cordwood, which runs at about $13.33 per MMBtu, according to Thomas.

Following Thomas, Steven Faehner, American Wood Fibers vice president of industrial and bioenergy sales, touched on the company’s history in the pellet industry, which it has been involved in for about 10 years. “We’ve been in business since 1966, and have sold wood and other fibers as fuel long before it was biomass, way before it was famous or sexy,” he said.

American Wood Fibers processes about 500,000 tons of wood per year, according to Faehner, and has three pellet manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin, Virginia and Ohio.

Pellets are a very historic and stable product, Faehner emphasized, as the prices don’t fluctuate dramatically and have not varied much over the last 15 to 20 years. “We’re selling pellets for ten dollars less per ton that it was five years ago,” Thomas added.

Though about roughly 53 percent of renewable energy in America comes from biomass in general, Faehner said that isn’t commonly known. “We haven’t gotten the message out, and it’s not promoted enough. We displace an awful lot of fuel [oil].”

Faehner concluded with touching on sustainability issues, pointing out that there is too much caution when it comes to using biomass resources for energy in the U.S., which can have negative consequences, particularly when it comes to fighting forest fires. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” he said. “If you look at the numbers—growth verses harvest over the last 55 years—the statistics and resources we have, I don’t know that there’s a better argument [for biomass fuel].”

2010 census shows wood is fastest growing heating fuel

By Alliance for Green Heat | October 10, 2011

Recently released U.S. Census figures show the number of households heating with wood grew 34 percent between 2000 and 2010, faster than any other heating fuel. Electricity showed the second fastest growth, with a 24 percent increase over the past decade.

In two states, households using wood as a primary heat source more than doubled—Michigan (135 percent) and Connecticut (122 percent). And in six other states, wood heating grew by more than 90 percent—New Hampshire (99 percent), Massachusetts (99 percent), Maine (96 percent), Rhode Island (96 percent), Ohio (95 percent) and Nevada (91 percent).

Census data also shows that low- and middle-income households are much more likely to use wood as a primary heating fuel, making low- and middle-income families growth leaders of the residential renewable energy movement. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, residential wood heat accounts for 80 percent of residential renewable energy, solar 15 percent and geothermal 5 percent.
“Heating with wood may not be hip like solar, but it’s proving to be the workhorse of residential renewable energy production,” said John Ackerly, president of the Alliance for Green Heat, a nonprofit organization based in Maryland.

The rise of wood and wood pellets in home heating is driven by the climbing cost of oil, the economic downturn and the movement to use renewable energy. The Census Bureau does not track the reason people switch fuels but in states like Maine and New Hampshire where rising oil prices are squeezing household budgets, it is clear that many families simply feel the need to cut heating costs.

“The rise of wood heat is good news for offsetting fossil fuels, achieving energy independence, creating jobs and helping families affordably heat their homes,” Ackerly  said. “However, wood heat’s rapid rise is not just from people using clean pellet and EPA certified wood stoves. Many people are also dusting off old and inefficient stoves and in some states installing outdoor boilers that create too much smoke.”

Over the past decade, the number of households using two of the most expensive heating fuels significantly declined: propane dropped 16 percent and oil heat dropped 21 percent. Some of those homes undoubtedly switched to wood. Switching from fossil fuels to commercially purchased wood heat can reduce a home’s heating bills by half or more. Those who cut or collect their own wood save much more, using their labor to zero out heating bills.

Currently about 25 percent to 30 percent of the 12 million stoves in the U.S. are clean burning pellet stoves or EPA certified wood stoves, according to the EPA and other sources. Americans have installed about 1 million pellet stoves since the 1980s when they were invented.

Wood now ranks third in the most common heating fuels after gas and electricity for both primary and secondary heating fuel use, but ranks fifth, after oil and propane as well, when only primary heat fuel is considered. As of 2010, 2.1 percent of American homes, or about 2.40 million households, use wood as a primary heat source, up from 1.6 percent in 2000. About 10 percent to 12 percent of American households use wood when secondary heating is counted, according to the Census Bureau and the EIA.

The rapid rise in wood heat as a primary heating fuel is mainly a rural phenomenon, and to a lesser extent a suburban trend. According to the U.S. census, 57 percent of households who primarily heat with wood live in rural areas, 40 percent in suburban areas and only 3 percent in urban areas.