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ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY wood pellets recycle RENEWABLE HEAT

By Anna Simet | January 25, 2013
Here’s a little info for you wood pellet exporters (or soon-to-be): Europe’s largest handler of wood pellets is planning to expand its current capabilities.

This week, the Port of Tyne in South Shields, England, announced that it is planning to build new facilities for handling, storage and transportation of wood pellet imports.

Some interesting facts about this port:

-It was once world famous for coal exports (currently the fourth largest), and in latter years for coal imports.

-It’s the U.K.'s largest car exporter

-It operates an award-winning International Passenger Terminal for ferries and cruise ships, and recently became Britain's largest trust port, overtaking the Port of Dover.

-It manages a busy container terminal and U.K.-wide distribution network with a fleet of more than 180 trucks and trailers.

And of course, it is one of the largest handlers of wood pellets in the world. The proposed plans, if developed as currently mapped out, are estimated to create 900 jobs in construction and a further 300 full-time operational jobs, supporting an additional 2,000 jobs.

Initially, the Port plans to submit applications to extend its multi-functional berths at Riverside Quay by 100 meters, and provide the additional facilities for wood pellets including multi-purpose sealed storage, enclosed conveyor systems and a new length of railway line.

Andrew Moffat, the port’s CEO, said it is working with major companies in the power generation industry to identify their future requirements and make sure the port is ready to meet their needs.

Simply stated, the Port of Tyne is getting ready for things to come.

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By Alliance for Green Heat | March 26, 2013

In 1999, pellet stoves only had an 11% share of the stove market.  Nine years later in 2008, they had a nearly 43% market share.  Today, for every three stoves sold, two use cordwood and one uses pellets. For a technology that was only invented in 1980s, this is a remarkable innovation success story.
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When the Sandri Companies won a $3.2 million federal stimulus grant as part of a push by Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration to encourage the renewable energy sector, it was touted not only as a way to get high-efficiency wood pellet boilers into use at Greenfield Community College, the Greenfield Fire Station and businesses around the region, but to give the third-generation petroleum-based business a foothold in an emerging alternative energy sector.
Since then, Sandri, which has also moved to diversify its energy-businesses to include propane, solar power, as well as geothermal and pellet stoves, has installed more than 50 of the Austrian-designed wood-pellet boilers, which unlike regular pellet stoves are sophisticated central heating systems that automatically feed themselves, clean themselves and — most importantly — modulate temperatures according to outdoor temperature and the temperature of heated water returning through the system.
Through the federal stimulus program, the 82-year-old Greenfield company arranged 100 percent funding for installation of low-emission wood pellet boilers at eight institutional or commercial sites, offered dramatic discounts on the boilers to homeowners in Franklin and Hampshire counties; and purchased three $215,000 bulk pellet delivery trucks.
On the lower end of the spectrum is a 68,000 BTU boiler installed by Barry Elbaum at his six-apartment Montague building on Route 63.
By replacing the oil-fired boiler and then weatherizing the building and installing a solar water-heating system between the time he bought it 25 years ago and last year, Elbaum had already cut annual fuel consumption from 5,000 gallons to 1,200 gallons. With the cost of a gallon of oil at nearly $4, he said, “I was looking for a way to control the cost of running a building. I was looking for alternatives, because I was just petrified of oil.”

With natural gas not available and propane seeming “still tied to being exploited,” he’d dismissed pellet boilers as being too exorbitant in cost. And then the stimulus funding underwrote the system’s $40,000 cost down to just $10,000, he said.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” said Elbaum, who figures his payback on this system will be five years. “This wouldn’t be possible without a subsidy. Without a subsidy, I don’t know how anyone could afford to do this. The subsidy’s created an infrastructure for there to be an industry for other than selling wood pellets by the bag.”
He figures that in addition to 300 gallons of oil to back up his water heater, he will burn about six tons of pellets this year, the equivalent of about 720 gallons of oil, at $240 per ton.
“It’s all economics,” he says.
On the other end of the spectrum is Full Bloom Market Garden in Whately, where owner Dewitt Thompson estimates the four boilers he installed to heat more than two acres of greenhouse space is displacing 60,000 gallons of fossil fuel a year for about $125,000 savings.
“It wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for the grant,” said Thompson, adding that his 3.2 million BTU system would have cost $300,000 for the three boilers alone. The boilers’ cost was entirely underwritten by the grant, leaving Thompson with $100,000 in costs for related improvements to accommodate it. “Projects like this will help the boiler companies get things together and hopefully bring down their cost,” he added. “I think they’re expensive for the amount of heat they’re actually producing, as with any kind of newer burning technologies. These are gasification boilers, very efficient, very clean burning, and they produce very little ash or fly ash. This could be the future.”
Chicken and egg
That’s the hope of Sandri, where the bulk of its energy business is still in gasoline and diesel fuel sold at 105 stations in four states, but where renewable heating technologies now account for about 7 percent of the business in its heating-air condition-ventilation sector. That’s been beefed up with the company’s purchase of Pioneer Valley Cooling and Heating and of New England Pellet LLC’s Propell Energy subsidiary, and this year, it’s on target for its pellet sales to equal 1 million gallons of heating oil, said company spokeswoman Kristin Wedegartner.
“Our bulk wood pellet customer base is growing,” she said, adding that that growth is coming in southeastern Vermont and southwestern New Hampshire, as well as Franklin and Hampshire counties.
Jake Goodyear, Sandri’s vice president of renewable energy, said the stimulus funding helped anchor what may be one of the nation’s largest concentrations of wood-pellet boilers here with the subsidized sale of 20 Austrian-designed boilers at seven or eight commercial sites and half a dozen or so homes from the fall of 2010 through last spring. The business has also been helped by a New Hampshire boiler rebate program that provides homeowners with 30 percent of the total costs of their wood-pellet systems.

Goodyear said the OkoFEN and ACT Bioenergy systems — are about 87 percent efficient, and the cost of delivered wood pellets now is about half that of heating oil, so it makes sense for larger users, even without the federal subsidy.
“It’s difficult to make the numbers work for a three-bedroom ranch that burns 500 gallons of oil a year,” Goodyear said. “The economics are pretty challenging. When you get into bigger homes, multifamily homes and businesses and institutions, the numbers can work organically right now, although the equipment is very expensive. As a homeowner, you’d have to be burning the equivalent of about 1,500 gallons of heating oil a year for the economics to make sense at this point.”
Although the company has continued to sell the pellet boilers, particularly for schools in Vermont and New Hampshire homeowners with help from that state’s rebate program, Goodyear called making the cost of small-scale manufacturing attractive here has been “a chicken-and-egg issue.”
Sandri has been working to have Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources consider a rebate program for homeowners similar to the one in New Hampshire, and also to consider allowing renewable lheating technologies to be recognized for credits in much the same way that renewable electric-generating plants are certified for renewable portfolio standards, with the rationale that the impact is the same as generating electricity.
“It’s a challenge for any young industry like ours,” he said. “Renewable thermal energy has been left by the wayside at the federal level, where all subsidies are focused on renewables on transportation fuels and electricity, as opposed to thermal heat. That’s despite the fact that thermal is approximately one-third of the primary energy used for the country overall, and particularly in this part of the country.”
Goodyear said he believes the price of those pellet-burning systems can come down by as much as 50 percent over time.
“What the state saw was a company with the capability to kick-start the industry, and it saw the need for a distribution infrastructure at same time it was getting some systems installed.”
 
Gas stoves: Like with gas logs, these stoves are designed to burn either natural gas or LP, EPA spokeswoman Molly Hooven says. However, gas stoves are self-contained units, while gas logs are meant to be used in an existing fireplace.
 

Gas stoves (at right) “emit very little pollution, require little maintenance and can be installed almost anywhere in the home,” Hooven says. “Today’s gas stoves can be vented through an existing chimney or direct vented through the wall behind the stove.”
 
The EPA does not support vent-free models because of indoor air quality concerns, she says.
 
Gas stoves are among the cleanest and cheapest fuel options, Crouch says. Although they still burn fossil fuels, they produce lower emissions than wood or other alternatives.
 
Some of the more innovative gas stoves incorporate stone and cut glass into the classic design with a linear line of fire, Wheeler says.
 

Wood-burning stoves and inserts: Most firewood grows locally, is abundant, inexpensive and “comes from harvesting dead trees,” according to the HPBA consumer report. Unlike with fossil fuels, no net carbon is released into the environment when wood is burned because the same gases are given off when the tree decomposes, the report states.
 
With new technology, wood stoves are capable of heating an entire house, as long as it’s well constructed with enough insulation, HPBA reports. The drawback to burning wood is you have to empty the ashes more often, Crouch says, and to split, stock, dry and season the wood to meet federal standards.
 
Stricter government regulations are helping to improve air quality, promoting cleaner-burning appliances, Wheeler says. Newer models allow for a more complete combustion, sending less smoke up the stack and into the atmosphere, she says.
 

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At this time of year, fireplaces tend to be the focal point of many family gatherings, romantic interludes and toe-warming respites. Still, the typical masonry model is not the most efficient or environmentally sensitive heating source, according to federal agencies that regulate energy and protect the environment.
 
To help you choose the most eco-friendly fireplace options, we consulted fireplace regulators and industry representatives. The products they discussed are either built into the existing hearth or free-standing. They tend to produce less pollution than standard fireplaces.
 
For starters, consumers should decide whether they are interested in a fireplace primarily for heating throughout the winter or for decorative purposes with a few fires a year, says John Crouch, director of public affairs for the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), an international trade organization. 
 
“The traditional open wood-burning fireplace is not a heating device as it was back in the 19th century,” he says. Hundreds of years ago, 50 degrees was also considered warm enough to heat a room, Crouch adds.
 
In areas with milder winters, a decorative fireplace or “hearth appliance” captures the look and feel of a fire with gas logs, fire logs or ethanol. While relatively inexpensive, these options don’t tend to provide much warmth, he says.  
 
For more serious heat, Crouch suggests consumers consider fireplace inserts or stoves that use wood, gas or pellets made from compressed sawdust. Such systems generally have a higher price tag and require more maintenance.
 
Here are a few options when seeking an eco-friendly fireplace or appliance for aesthetics rather than efficiency:
 

Bio-ethanol fireplaces: The biofuel used in this appliance, also called ethyl alcohol, is derived from agricultural products, primarily corn, Crouch says. Ethanol fireplaces (at right) tend to have sleek contemporary designs and be used in urban settings instead of natural gas, he says. But they are not for serious heat.
 
“They are just decorative and their primary advantage is that they do not have to be vented,” HPBA spokeswoman Leslie Wheeler says. “You can put them anywhere.”
 
Gas logs (natural gas or LP, liquid propane): Gas logs can be retrofitted in an existing fireplace as an alternative to wood, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which certifies heating appliances.
 

Although gas logs (at right) burn fossil fuels, either natural gas or LP, they still have low emissions, the EPA reported on its Burn Wise website.
 
LP gas costs more than natural gas and contains more carbon, but burns about three times hotter, according to Lowe’s gas log buying guide. LP gas comes from a tank outside the home, while natural gas is piped in as for other appliances, the home improvement store explains.
 
Gas logs can be vented or vent-free. Vented logs, which operate with an open chimney flue or damper, simulate a wood-burning flame. Vent-free logs won’t give you the roaring fire effect, but provide a little more heat and may have a thermostat to maintain room temperature, Lowe’s reports.
 

Fire logs: The most popular is the Duraflame (at right), which is made from renewable sources such as sawdust and wax, Crouch says. The company reports online that its products produce fewer carbon emissions than firewood or gas logs.
 
If you’re looking for a more serious heating source, HPBA recommends choosing from these eco-friendly fireplaces:
 
Pellet stoves: Resembling rabbit food, these pellets are 3/8 of an inch to 1 inch, according to a fact sheet from the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
 

The pellets are made from compressed sawdust, wood chips, bark, agricultural waste and other organic materials, the DOE reported in its Energy Savers article on the subject.
 
“They are much more convenient to operate and have much higher combustion and heating efficiencies than ordinary wood stoves or fireplaces.” As a result, pellet stoves (at right) produce very little air pollution and are considered the cleanest of the solid fuel-burning residential heating appliances.
 
Using an automated feed system, a single load of pellets can burn 24 hours, HPBA reports.
 
Gas stoves: Like with gas logs, these stoves are designed to burn either natural gas or LP, EPA spokeswoman Molly Hooven says. However, gas stoves are self-contained units, while gas logs are meant to be used in an existing fireplace.
 

Gas stoves (at right) “emit very little pollution, require little maintenance and can be installed almost anywhere in the home,” Hooven says. “Today’s gas stoves can be vented through an existing chimney or direct vented through the wall behind the stove.”
 
The EPA does not support vent-free models because of indoor air quality concerns, she says.
 
Gas stoves are among the cleanest and cheapest fuel options, Crouch says. Although they still burn fossil fuels, they produce lower emissions than wood or other alternatives.
 
Some of the more innovative gas stoves incorporate stone and cut glass into the classic design with a linear line of fire, Wheeler says.
 

Wood-burning stoves and inserts: Most firewood grows locally, is abundant, inexpensive and “comes from harvesting dead trees,” according to the HPBA consumer report. Unlike with fossil fuels, no net carbon is released into the environment when wood is burned because the same gases are given off when the tree decomposes, the report states.
 
With new technology, wood stoves are capable of heating an entire house, as long as it’s well constructed with enough insulation, HPBA reports. The drawback to burning wood is you have to empty the ashes more often, Crouch says, and to split, stock, dry and season the wood to meet federal standards.
 
Stricter government regulations are helping to improve air quality, promoting cleaner-burning appliances, Wheeler says. Newer models allow for a more complete combustion, sending less smoke up the stack and into the atmosphere, she says.
 

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Alliance for Green Heat, January 2, 2013 - Yesterday, Congress passed a bill addressing parts of the Fiscal Cliff, and it included a reinstatement of the $300 tax credit for biomass heaters that are 75% efficient using lower heating value. Another provision of the bill extended the wind production tax credit for one more year.

The biomass stove provision allows the full cost of the equipment and installation up to $300 for stoves bought in 2013 and it is retroactive, so that all eligible stoves purchased in 2012 can also get the credit. This means that every stove purchase will be able to collect the full $300 tax credit because all EPA certified stoves cost more than $300 and virtually every EPA certified stove claims to meet the 75% efficiency threshold. However, a taxpayer could not collect the full $300 if they have already recieved tax credits under this provision in previous years and the total amount would be over $500.

This credit was allowed to expire at the end of 2011 and H.R. 8 extends it through December 31, 2013. In addition to the purchase price, consumers can include the cost of professional installation which is important to the proper and safe operation of biomass stoves.

The bill language that makes it retroactive did so by just extending the credit that existed in 2011, through  December 31, 2013:

SEC. 401. EXTENSION OF CREDIT FOR ENERGY-EFFICIENT EXISTING HOMES.
(a) IN GENERAL.—Paragraph (2) of section 25C(g) is amended by striking ‘‘December 31, 2011’’ and inserting ‘‘December 31, 2013’’.

The Alliance for Green Heat applauds the reinstatement of the tax credit for wood and pellet stoves. "This modest tax credit is important for low and middle-income consumers who need an affordable alternative to fossil fuels," said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat.

"However, when tax payer money is used for incentives, we believe it should go to the cleanest and most efficient stoves on the market, not all stoves on the showroom floor. The 75% efficiency standard is virtually meaningless because manufacturers can use any number of calculations to render all stoves eligible.This is a disservice to consumers who may unwittingly buy a 50% or 60% efficient wood or pellet stove and not enjoy the cost savings they expected," Ackerly said.

The provision relating to biomass heating equipment is part of a much larger package of energy efficiency equipment.  Despite efforts by some to increase the maximum rebate amount and make other changes to the biomass equipment and all the other pieces of equipment, Congress just extended the language that Congress had approved in 2010.

This tax credit extension for energy efficiency equipment, including windows, insulation and other HVAC equipment, is estimated to cost the US government $2.2 billion dollars.  The Alliance is trying to get the exact amount that the biomass heating equipment costs.


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