Subsidies, rebates to install wood heat available in Vermont

By Northern Forest Center | July 20, 2016

Summer is the ideal time to assess your home heating system and consider switching to a local, renewable fuel instead of oil or propane—especially this summer, when residents of the Northeast Kingdom region of Vermont who switch to modern wood heating systems are eligible for subsidies and rebates of up to $10,500.

The funding comes from two sources. The nonprofit Northern Forest Center is offering subsidies up to $5,000 and the state is offering rebates up to $5,500 from a combination of programs.

“My wood pellet boiler has done a wonderful job of heating my house,” said Kim Butler of Kirby, Vermont. “I really like knowing that when I pay for heat, I’m paying for a locally sourced fuel and providing jobs in the Kingdom.”

The financial assistance is for installing qualified whole-house wood pellet boilers that use wood pellets sourced from local forests. In the Kingdom, 14 homeowners have installed these high-efficiency wood pellet boilers through the Center’s Model Neighborhood Wood Pellet Initiative. A wood products facility, office building, auto repair shop, and two schools have also installed pellet boilers with the Center’s support.

Together, homeowners and businesses in the Kingdom have generated almost $300,000 in positive economic impact for the region’s forest economy by using local wood pellet instead of oil. They’ve also contributed to a net carbon dioxide reduction of 1,466 tons.

The center’s program is open to residents of Orleans, Essex and Caledonia counties.

The Center is helping to convert buildings to local, renewable wood pellets for heat to support the local forest economy and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. “Buying local wood pellets is good for our economy just the way buying local food is,” said Maura Adams, program director for the Northern Forest Center. “One hundred percent of what we spend on wood pellets keeps circulating in the local economy. With oil, only 22 cents of every dollar benefits our communities.”

Adams said that the Center champions wood heat because it is a reliable, local fuel at a stable price. “Modern wood heat also creates three important opportunities for the region,” she said. “It creates jobs in forestry, logging and pellet manufacturing.  It creates income for landowners who need markets for their low-grade wood to support ongoing stewardship of forestland. And using wood pellets for heat instead of oil reduces the net amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over time.”

Details about the Center’s program and an application are available online, or by contacting Program Director Rhonda Shippee at 802-249-8878 or 802-895-4461 or by email: rshippee@northernforest.org. Information about the state rebates is available at Efficiency Vermont and the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund.

 “We’ve helped install 124 wood pellet boilers and people are very happy with them,” said Adams. “These are whole-building automated systems that completely replace oil or propane boilers. Pellets are delivered in bulk for storage on site, then fed automatically to the boiler when heat is needed. There are no bags of pellets to lug or cordwood to haul. And these are definitely not smoky, back-yard boilers.”

The Center developed the Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative with partners in New Hampshire and Maine to build a density of high-efficiency wood pellet boiler installations in specific geographic areas. The goal was to demonstrate the reliability and efficiency of the boilers and create a market for bulk delivery of wood pellets.

Funding for the Model Neighborhood program in Vermont comes from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Foods & Markets through the Working Lands Enterprise Board; the High Meadows Fund; the Lintilhac Foundation, Jane’s Trust, VLITE, USDA Rural Development, the US Economic Development Administration and others.

The Northern Forest Center builds economic and community vitality while fostering sound forest stewardship across the Northern Forest of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.