June 12, 2017

Heat Local

Meg Howard, Project Manager - Renewable Thermal

Michael Snyder, Vermont’s Commissioner of Forestry, Parks, and Recreation, had a counter-intuitive message at this year’s Northeast Biomass Heating Expo: We’re going to save forests by cutting down trees.

Commissioner Snyder and other presenters emphasized that in order to keep forest lands viable there needs to be a market for forest products. There’s still a strong regional market for high-grade sawlogs that can be used for furniture or wood finishes or veneers. However, most of the trees in a well-managed harvest are actually classified as low-grade wood. The main market for low-grade wood in the region is pulp and paper mills, but as we all start to go digital that market is shrinking. 

Enter modern wood heating. Conference attendees were in Vermont to talk about the small but growing market for highly efficient, automated wood heating. The image on the left shows a pellet boiler that can heat an entire home, replacing a fossil fuel boiler. In Upper Austria, the heart of the modern wood heating movement, biomass accounts for around a third of all heating energy.

Keeping forest lands economically viable doesn’t just save trees, it also supports local jobs. Massachusetts has about 300 licensed timber harvesting companies and over 150 licensed foresters. Heating with biomass means that a much greater share of your heating expenditures gets recycled into the regional economy.

In order to support the young modern wood heating industry in Massachusetts, MassCEC offers residential and commercial rebates. We are also working with our partners across state government, academia, non-profits, and the private sector to ensure the market develops with equipment that is low-emissions, high-efficiency, and well designed for our building stock, as well as with a fuel source that is sustainably harvested.

Want to talk more about the future of biomass heating? Feel free to reach out on Twitter to @cleanenergymeg.