Clarkson University, SUNY Canton research wood heating systems

By Clarkson University | February 03, 2015

Clarkson University and State University of New York Canton are researching renewable wood heating systems that would improve energy efficiency in New York State.

Researchers at the universities are evaluating a new generation of wood pellet boilers that were developed in Austria and now are being manufactured in New York State. Director of Clarkson's Institute for a Sustainable Environment and Bayard D. Clarkson Distinguished Professor Philip K. Hopke recently led a tour of the three experimental North Country wood pellet boiler sites with Renewable Heat NY personnel from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Wood pellet boilers provide an alternative heating system that efficiently burns wood pellets to provide hot water heating. The pellets are heated at a low temperature, the resulting gas is effectively burned, and the energy output from burning the pellets heats water in thermal storage tanks. The hot water in the tanks is then distributed to the building to provide heat.

"The wood heating system evaluations by Clarkson University and SUNY Canton will prove the benefits of these cleaner, more efficient boilers," said John B. Rhodes, president and CEO, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. “In alignment with Governor Cuomo’s Renewable Heat NY initiative, this project will help lead to growth in this industry and will provide demonstrated alternatives to high-polluting wood boilers."

One wood pellet boiler is installed at the Walker Center at Clarkson University, and two more boilers are located in residences in the Potsdam area.

"Clarkson is proud to be able to help demonstrate these new high efficiency, clean-burning wood pellet systems that reduce our carbon emissions, save money for the end-user, and promote economic development in New York State," Hopke said.

SUNY Canton Distinguished Professor Emeritus Arthur G. Hurlbut and Canino School of Engineering Technology Interim Dean Michael J. Newtown have been overseeing pellet boiler installations at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Learning Farm. The new boilers serve as a tool to educate the community about different options for wood heating.

“Many households can benefit from the cost and convenience of wood pellet boilers,” Hurlbut said. “It is my hope that our research will help people consider switching to cost-effective heating solutions over more expensive options.”

The wood heating systems are being supported by Renewable Heat NY, an initiative from New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo that provides NYSERDA incentives toward the installed costs of high-efficiency, low-emission wood heating systems in order to build a sustainable, high-efficiency, low-emission wood heating sector in New York. Renewable Heat NY is also helping to develop clean technology manufacturing based in New York, a skilled high-efficiency wood heating system installer base, and sustainably harvested wood fuels from state forests—supporting economic development while preserving the environment.