Project aims to help Adirondack residents switch to pellet heat

By Northern Forest Center | March 10, 2015

Financial and technical assistance that has helped homeowners and businesses in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont successfully switch to high-efficiency wood pellet heating is now available to Adirondack homeowners and businesses through the Adirondack Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative.

The Adirondack Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative, a program of the Northern Forest Center, will provide financial incentives for wood pellet boiler installations to 20 homeowners living in Saranac, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake in New York. It will also provide funds to install 15 wood pellet boilers in municipal and non-residential buildings in Essex, Franklin and Clinton counties, with preference given to projects in Saranac, Saranac Lake, and Tupper Lake. 

 “This one project will do three significant things,” said Maura Adams, program director for the Northern Forest Center. “It will help businesses and homeowners lower their heating costs; it will increase demand for wood pellets, which supports jobs in our forest-based businesses; and it will keep money circulating in the local economy rather than being exported. For every dollar we spend on heating oil, 78 cents leaves the local economy. When we buy wood pellets, every dollar stays here.”

Over the 25-year life of the wood pellet boilers installed through this project, participants will reduce fossil fuel use by the equivalent of 1.4 million gallons of oil. By purchasing wood pellets instead of oil, participants will help keep more than $5 million in the regional economy and generate about $11 million in positive economic impact.

Through community-based clusters of high-efficiency, low-emission wood pellet boiler installations, the project is designed to show that clean-burning wood pellet heating systems can completely replace oil and propane boilers. The project demonstrates the reliability and cost savings of bulk-fed, high-efficiency pellet boilers in non-residential buildings and homes.

The Northern Forest Center is partnering with the Adirondack North Country Association, Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and other organizations to launch the Adirondack Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative. Funding for the program comes from the Northern Border Regional Commission, the Overhills Foundation, and private individuals. NYSERDA also provided support through Governor Cuomo’s Cleaner, Greener Communities Program, which encourages local communities across the state to become more sustainable and energy efficient.

Jerry Delaney, a town councilor for Saranac, chairman of the Adirondack Local Government Review Board and member of the Northern Forest Center board of directors, is a longtime supporter of using locally-sourced wood for heat. “I think the Adirondacks is one of the most beautiful places in the world,” said Delaney, “and everything I do in my public service is to make it a better place to live and a less expensive place too. Using modern wood heat will create jobs, reduce the cost of heating and keep our working forests working. It ties back into using our historic resources, maintaining traditional jobs and keeping the heritage of the region alive and well.”

For non-residential participants, the Adirondack Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative will provide up to $15,000 of the cost to install a wood pellet heating system, with a goal of completing 15 installations during the 2-year project. Non-residential projects are considered on a rolling basis. Municipal buildings will be given preference. For residential participants, the Adirondack Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative will provide up to $10,000 for installation of qualified wood pellet heating systems.

“This is a great opportunity for anyone in our region who wants to lower their heating costs and switch to a local, renewable source for their heat,” said Kate Fish, ANCA’s executive director.  “Oil heat is expensive for businesses and families in our climate. Switching to pellet boilers will reduce heating expenses and create demand for a local, renewable energy source. Buying our energy locally is a sustainable way to support our economy.”

The project will use a competitive process and requires an application to be completed for consideration.  Building owners selected for the project will be required to complete a free energy assessment through a designated provider recognized by the Building Performance Institute as a BPI GoldStar Contractor.

The Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative is part of the Northern Forest Center’s renewable energy program, which is building the market for high-efficiency, low-emission wood pellet boilers for homes and small-scale commercial installations in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York and advocating for supportive public policies on the state and federal levels.

“The Adirondack Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative will help encourage the use of cleaner wood heating technologies and a locally-grown, renewable fuel resource,” said John B. Rhodes, president and CEO of NYSERDA. “In the North Country, where winters are cold and wood is plentiful, Governor Cuomo's Renewable Heat NY program will help local residents and businesses to take advantage of this new class of high-efficiency technologies.”

New York State is advancing new, energy-efficient, low-emission wood heating technology through Renewable Heat NY, which encourages growth of the high-efficiency, low-emission biomass heating industry. The Renewable Heat NY program also supports quicker development of this industry, raises consumer awareness, supports New York-based advanced technology heating products, and encourages local sustainable heating markets.

“The Adirondack Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative is a great success in Berlin, New Hampshire, where 40 homeowners and two non-profits have saved more than $160,000 on fuel and generated more than $612,000 in positive economic impact for the regional economy since early 2012,” said Adams. “In Farmington and Wilton, Maine, 21 homeowners, two churches and two businesses have taken advantage of the project so far to switch from oil to wood pellet heat.”

The “model” neighborhood concept creates a geographic concentration of pellet boiler users that helps develop the pellet delivery systems, installation and maintenance support that will make it easier for others to switch to pellet heating and will allow the community to experience the convenience and savings of the high-efficiency pellet boilers.  

Other benefits of the project include strengthening markets for low-grade wood, which provides a financial incentive to forestland owners to keep their forests intact, and opportunities to stabilize and increase employment in forest-based businesses.

The Northern Forest Center helps create economic opportunity and community vitality from healthy working forests in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.  Additional resources and application materials are available on the Northern Forest Center website.