Wood Stove Decathalon Calls Attention to a Neglected Issue

By Anna Simet | November 08, 2013

A week from today, I’ll be hopping on a plane to Washington, D.C., to attend the Alliance for Green Heat’s Wood Stove Decathalon.

D.C. friends, please try to arrange some good weather for me.  It’s getting pretty chilly up here in N.D. I’d be happy with anything over 45 degrees.

Anyway, I’m really excited to attend, for a couple of reasons:

It’s just cool.

I like competitions.

Just kidding. In all seriousness, the sweat and blood of the participating teams have gone into producing the cleanest, most efficient wood stoves in the world, and now’s the time that all of their hard work will be put to the test. The stoves are going to be on public display on the National Mall to be demonstrated, tested and judged, and the winning team receives a $25,000 prize.

In addition to the stove demonstrations, there are going to be a series of really interesting panels with expert speakers. I checked in with my friend John Ackerly, executive director for AFGH, to ask him about any standout panels, and he said the Sunday panel on making electricity with wood stoves should be great (find the entire schedule here).

“I think once that stoves are associated with providing reliable heat—and some electricity—during storms and power outages, people will want them as a backup, even if they don't use them much otherwise,” Ackerly told me. “Thousands of wood stoves in a county should be seen as a thermal micro grid that can't be taken out by a mega storm.”

The Decathalon’s location (the middle of D.C.) was strategic, and it’s going to bring a whole lot of attention to a neglected issue, from both the public and policymakers. “This sector—residential wood and pellet heating—gets a higher profile and can’t be taken for granted as much,” Ackerly said. “The lack of policy surrounding this huge energy source has let the sector stagnate. Without any vision for utilizing this sector, the government has had no interest in R&D to move the industry into mainstream of renewable energy policy.”

And finally, Ackerly said the motivation behind this event is to revitalize confidence and interest in the wood stove. “Because otherwise, many people assume that the future should be dominated by pellet stoves. Unlike Europe, America has a huge population of lower-income families who are committed to heating with wood, and we need to invest in technologies for the wood stove that can keep that sector vibrant and growing.”

If you’re going to be at the Decathalon, keep an eye out for me, as I’ll be wandering around all weekend.