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Southern Tier consortium seeks grant to promote wood-pellet fuels

By Eric Reinhardt


ITHACA — A consortium of private companies and public agencies wants to promote the use of wood-pellet fuels produced within the eight counties of the Southern Tier as an “affordable alternative” to imported fossil-heating fuels, such as oil or propane.

The state’s Cleaner, Greener Communities grant program is considering a funding application from the Southern Tier Bulk Wood Pellet Infrastructure Boost Program. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County (CCETC) and several local businesses led the development of the grant proposal, the consortium said in a news release. The group’s release did not say how much grant money the consortium is seeking.

The businesses included MESA Reduction Engineering of Auburn; Gimme! Coffee and Finger Lakes Fresh of Ithaca; Ehrhart Energy in Ithaca and Trumansburg; Schaefer’s Gardens of Triangle in Broome County; and New England Wood Pellet of Deposit in Delaware County. 

The use of “expensive” fossil-heating fuels, such as oil and propane, is still “prevalent” across the Southern Tier, especially in rural areas, Guillermo Metz, coordinator of the Green Building and Renewable Energy Program at CCETC, noted in the release.

“This project will help jumpstart the delivery and use of bulk-pellet fuel, which can directly replace oil or propane in boilers for homes, communities, and businesses. Combined with outreach and education about making our homes and businesses more energy efficient, this program has the potential to save home- and business owners millions of dollars collectively, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, create thousands of jobs, reduce our carbon emissions, and improve the health of our forests by providing a market for the low-quality trees that now dominate and have created an unnatural environment,” Metz contended.

Wood pellets are a compressed, dry-wood fuel made from waste wood that property owners could use in stoves and boilers to heat any size house or commercial building, according to the consortium.

Most homeowners purchase wood pellets in 40-pound bags to feed pellet-stove space heaters. The Bulk Wood Pellet Program is working to establish the infrastructure to allow bulk delivery of pellet fuel, which would be similar to the current delivery structure for heating oil or propane to homes or businesses, the consortium said.

Fully automated wood-pellet boilers can heat large buildings with fuel metered from bulk storage. The concept is common in Europe, gaining acceptance in New England, but isn’t well known in New York, the consortium said.

The group came together in response to the Cleaner, Greener Communities grant program, which is providing a total of $25 million for project proposals statewide. The program is administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA.

The Southern Tier Bulk Wood Pellet Infrastructure Boost Program received a priority recommendation, the highest possible rating, from the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council, but must now compete against projects from around New York, the group said.


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