Posted in Lignetics on November 26, 2013 by Administrator
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].”
Posted in Lignetics on November 11, 2013 by Administrator
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.
Posted in Lignetics on November 05, 2013 by Administrator
After the unusually warm and snowless winter of 2011–2012, many people questioned if winter could make a comeback. Well it did. Last winter was cold and especially snowy.
So, what’s in store for this winter? The “Days of Shivery” are back!
For 2013–2014, we are forecasting a winter that will experience below average temperatures for about two-thirds of the nation. A large area of below-normal temperatures will predominate from roughly east of the Continental Divide to the Appalachians, north and east through New England. Coldest temperatures will be over the Northern Plains on east into the Great Lakes. Only for the Far West and the Southeast will there be a semblance of winter temperatures averaging close to normal, but only a few areas will enjoy many days where temperatures will average above normal.
Precipitation-wise, the Southern Plains, Midwest, and Southeast will see above-normal conditions, while the rest of the country will average near normal. With a combination of below-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation the stage will be set for the Midwest, Great Lakes, and Central and Northern New England to receive lots of snow. Farther south, where the thermometer will be vacillating above or below the freezing mark, Southern New England, Southeast New York, New Jersey, and down through the Mid-Atlantic region will be seeing either copious rains and/or snows.
And yet, the Pacific Northwest (or is it “northwet?”) where indeed wet weather is almost a given during the winter months, the overall winter season could average out drier than normal.
Significant snowfalls are forecast for parts of every zone. Over the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, we are “red-flagging” the first ten days of February for possible heavy winter weather. More importantly, on February 2, Super Bowl XLVIII will be played at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey’s Meadowlands—the very first time a Super Bowl will be played outdoors in a typically cold weather environment. We are forecasting stormy weather for this, the biggest of sporting venues. But even if we are off by a day or two with the timing of copious wind, rain, and snow, we wish to stress that this particular part of the winter season will be particularly volatile and especially turbulent.
And mid-March could bring a wave of storminess stretching almost from coast to coast, bringing a wide variety of precipitation types as well as strong and gusty winds.
Posted in Lignetics on October 29, 2013 by Administrator
Lignetics is pleased to announce that in September, it was designated as a Premium fuel producer by Conway and Robinson of Sharpsburg GA, which have been approved by the American Lumber Standard Committee (ALSC) Board of Review as an accredited third party auditing agency under the new Pellet Fuel Institute graded fuel program.
All three of Lignetics facilities qualified for this exceptional status, currently shared by just four total facilities nationwide. These include the Kootenai, Idaho plant, the Kenbridge, Virginia facility and the Linn West Virginia location.
To be awarded this important designation, Lignetics is in compliance with the Pellet Fuel Institute’s (PFI) Standard Specifications for Residential/Commercial Densified Fuel and the PFI Pellet Fuel Institute’s Residential/Commercial Densified Fuel QA/QC Handbook. The PFI Standards Program is a third party certification program providing standard specifications for residential and commercial grade fuel.
Posted in Lignetics on October 14, 2013 by Administrator
By Bill Bell, Executive Director, Maine Pellet Fuels Association
“We’re this far from taking off,” said a speaker at a pellet boiler firm’s recent sales meeting in Portland, Maine, while holding his thumb and index finger two inches apart. At the same time, another major pellet boiler firm in Maine is pounding the television airwaves with a commercial comparing the price of pellet fuel to heating oil, and Maine’s state energy agency recently announced an incentive program whereby up to 50 residential pellet boiler purchasers will receive rebates up to $5,000. The boiler firms and installers hope that this incentive will prove so popular that it will be extended beyond the initial funding.
Speaking at the 2013 Kedel (a Danish pellet boiler) Summit in Portland, former Biomass Thermal Energy Council Chairman Charlie Niebling was asked what it will take for residential pellet boiler sales in Maine and New Hampshire to achieve liftoff. Niebling suggested that increased tension in the Middle East, thereby spiking oil prices, would be an obvious stimulus. Absent such a spike, Niebling stated that while the pellet sector is “poised to significantly expand,” it behooves the industry to undertake a strong education and promotion program.
Other speakers at the meeting cited the need to answer consumer questions about bulk delivery, the long-term price outlook for pellets, the resale value of homes with central pellet heat, and greenhouse gas emissions. A panel of customers speaking at the end of the meeting emphasized that the desire to “get away from oil,” for both economic and environmental reasons, trumped whatever unanswered questions they had about switching to pellets. A secondary reason cited was a desire to spend their fuel dollars in support of Maine’s forest products economy.
Sales staff at the meeting spoke with confidence, noting that the 20-year longevity of oil burners means that every year, five percent of Maine homeowners are in the marketplace for a new heating system. The marketing pitch is “pellets are half the price of oil, and emit one-tenth the greenhouse gas.”
Will Maine be a significant partner in achieving pellet heat liftoff? According to its critics, the outlook among some trustees and staff at the state’s energy agency, Efficiency Maine, is that economic development considerations—the huge multiplier effect of a heating system using a locally produced fuel—are not central to the agency’s mission. In addition, the “insulation uber alles” crowd continues to demand that no home receive funds for a heating system change-out without the building envelope first being secured, a proposition that often leaves the homeowner with only enough funds for a new oil burner.
There are indications that the insulationists’ shrill arguments, threatening legal action if Efficiency Maine does not interpret an ambiguous section of new state law in their favor, are losing sway at the state agency. Also, Efficiency Maine recently made a modest grant to assist the Northern Forest Center’s promising Model Neighborhood project, which incentivizes pellet boiler installations in a concentrated area of homeowners.
At any rate, Efficiency Maine has just announced a wide range of incentives designed to reduce both energy demand and heating costs. Pellet stove purchasers will receive a $250 rebate provided the stove is EPA-approved and makeup air is ducted into the unit. Homeowners installing heat pumps or efficient new gas, propane, or oil furnaces will receive $500 rebates. The first 50 homeowners to install pellet boilers meeting HUD Energy Saver standards—or geothermal heat—will receive a $5,000 rebate, which is approximately the incentive amount that has proved most effective in selling pellet boilers.
Our industry up here obviously hopes that this incentive, sales force enthusiasm, the media advertising being done by one boiler firm—Maine Energy Systems—promoting pellet heat in general, and word-of-mouth recognition of our product quality will get us into a sharply upward flight path.