For more information and to register for the event click here.
Friday, October 2, 2015
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
We will be having two Saturday Open House Events in September and October.
Date: September 26th, 2015
Time: 8:00 am to Noon
Place: 4 Britton Lane, Lyme, NH 03768
Time: 8:00 am to Noon
Place: 4 Britton Lane, Lyme, NH 03768
Mark us on your calendars:
- Learn how you can take control of your heating bill with Local Fuel.
- Incentives available in NH, VT, MA, and NY.
- See a boiler in operation.
- Talk with an expert.
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
The first Fröling T4 boilers have arrived and are being installed. The T4 is a 500,000 Btu/hr. commercial grade boiler that can burn both wood chips or wood pellets. This installation is at the Sharon Elementary School, located in Sharon, VT.
Friday, September 4, 2015
Putting Pellets Away article is located here.
This article is a nice overview about point of use wood pellet fuel storage and is worth a read for anyone considering switching to heating with wood pellets. Several industry experts we know and trust are quoted in the article and what they have to say about wood pellet storage is spot-on in our opinion.
It is worth noting that the article misses an important segment of fuel storage, custom built storage, which is usually built as a special interior room in a basement. Custom storage is usually built from plywood and often utilizes sloping sides that cause pellets to flow to a central auger or to suction pickups. Building custom pellet storage requires fastidious attention to air and dust sealing at all seams and especially at access doors. Custom bins are durable and provide a unique opportunity to create storage in spaces that won't accommodate factory built cloth or steel bins. We have even seen ingenious bins built in old jail cells and integrated in hose drying towers in firehouses.
It is also worth noting that manufacturers of heating boilers are constantly improving technology used to convey pellets from the bulk storage bin to the boiler. Fröling is introducing a new fuel pickup system that uses up to 8 suction points mounted on a flat floor. By eliminating the need for sloping sides in a custom storage bin, approximately 25% or more fuel can be stored in the bin.
There are many other tricks of the trade not mentioned in the article. We recommend consulting with an experienced installer before installing any fuel storage, though the industry is still young, many installers have 10-15 years of experience in the trade and have learned much in that time. Many of those industry experts have been working to create wood pellet delivery and storage standards. These documents are still in progress, but there is an active effort to standardize the industry.
Fuel Storage located in a Congregational Church built in 1787.
Fuel storage located in an available narrow location.
Fuel storage in the basement of an old school house.
Fuel storage in the drying tower of a fire department.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Some say that burning wood makes more carbon dioxide than burning coal. They've either got an agenda or lack the knowledge to make a more nuanced statement. It is a shock statement poorly applied to wood fuel for heating. Those who favor using wood fuel rebut that carbon dioxide output compared to coal is a largely factor of fuel moisture content. These discussions spiral into tedium quickly. In the real world many variables impact carbon calculations and the data can be manipulated for desired effect.
In the heating universe we should care little about such comparisons. Unfortunately, in our power-centric energy world, electricity policy often metastasizes to thermal policy, though power and thermal uses of wood fuel are very different. Carbon dioxide output by fuel weight is NOT the crux of the matter. The crux of the matter is how quickly wood is burned vs. how quickly it grows back.
If all of the carbon dioxide produced from burning wood is recaptured by growing trees there is a balanced, harmonious carbon cycle. That's the same old, irrefutable story.
"No!", say some. If a tree is burned, carbon dioxide is released quickly. It takes a long time for a tree to re-grow and sequester that earlier released carbon. That means that burning wood has delayed carbon benefits and our environment can't withstand delay.
We may never hear the end of these types of arguments.
What about sustainability? Huge tracts of forests are actively managed and harvested. Few tracts are untouched and left to become old growth. Austrians claim over 100 years of active and sustainable forest management and have one of the most robust wood heating industries in the world. However, I'm not convinced they've got sustainability figured out completely. If maintaining a stand of trees is sustainable, then maybe the Austrians have succeeded. Forest cover is increasing in Austria. Unfortunately, the forest is more than a stand of trees. And there is more to sustainability than carbon. What is truly sustainable involves detailed mapping of forest soils, understanding nutrient availability, and symbiotic ecologic relationships, among other factors that we don't fully understand. Consider that it has been less than a decade since we began to understand the importance of bacteria that inhabit our bodies. We often speak about sustainable forest management ensuring carbon neutrality, but we don't really know what is sustainable because we haven't been studying this topic long enough to know. Probably, forest management focused on carbon absorption through rapid growth is not actually sustainable given so many other factors that impact forest health.
It is also no small matter that well maintained forests in the developed world might need to pull more than their own weight when it comes to carbon. Huge tracts of forest in the developing world are being turned to field, or worse, desert. Do healthy forests need to add carbon at double time? How quickly will the forest health equation change as global air composition and temperatures change? Sustainability is not easy to define and carbon emission is a global topic.
There is big money in carbon neutrality- big tax credits, big rebates, big grants, and big private investment. Unfortunately, investments in the biomass heating industry hang in the balance waiting for determinations about carbon neutrality. In reality, carbon neutrality may be the least tangible and most divisive policy tool for the biomass heating industry to focus on.
Here's the rub as I see it: We place far too much emphasis on carbon neutrality. I understand the politics. Sometimes we say and do things to swing the pendulum, but we need to be honest with ourselves. There is a lot more to forest based energy than carbon.
While using best management practices, increasing the utilization of wood for heating fuel should be an important energy policy in forested northern regions where fuel is for practical purposes, just out the back door or just down the road. Most expenditures on wood fuel for heat stay in the regions where the wood is harvested. In rural areas, wealth retention is extremely important, as money easily flows out of regions that produce nothing. Of course, wood is almost always the least expensive fuel in rural areas. Profitable, properly managed forest harvests create disincentives for development, as managed forest harvests produce steady return on investment. Even a fundamental conservationist would rather see a working forest than no forest at all. Most working forests are also healthy forests.
Carbon neutrality is a handy lever for renewable energy decision makers, but for biomass thermal energy, carbon neutrality should not be a pass/fail criterion nor even a primary reason for deciding whether or not biomass thermal energy is worthy of investment. There are better reasons for feeling good about wood.
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Lambda controlled combustion in wood burning boilers combines modern computer processing and control with the ancient use of wood as fuel.
The problem: A traditional problem with wood burning is the emission of unburned, yet energy rich gasses as smoke. Burning smoke enhances efficiency and decreases harmful emissions. If wood is heated and turned into charcoal without active flame, about ½ of the energy content in the wood will be released as smoke. The combustion of wood involves three phases- drying (evaporation of water), smoke production, and charcoal. All three phases are taking place to some degree simultaneously, however the bulk of a load of wood in a combustion chamber will generally be in one phase or another depending upon how long the wood has been exposed to high temperatures/fire. Combustion of wood smoke is only achieved at very high temperature and with proper combustion air mixing. Because wood is changing phases as it is heated/burned and because wood is an irregular fuel by shape, species, moisture content, age, etc. regulation of combustion air in order to optimize combustion and to minimize emissions of smoke is very difficult to maintain manually.
The solution: Wood gasification boilers typically burn wood in an upper (primary) combustion/wood storage area. This combustion zone is relatively low in temperature and is quite large. The primary combustion chamber is generally supplied by air at the base of the primary combustion chamber. Below the primary combustion chamber there is a secondary combustion zone generally consisting of a ceramic refractory chamber with injected combustion air. The secondary chamber is designed for high turbulence, high temperature and high residence time of the combustible gasses. A lambda control system automatically adjusts primary and secondary combustion air through independent air controls, optimizing combustion as the wood burns. The lambda control system monitors excess oxygen and the temperature of the exhaust, feeds this information to the processor, and adjusts air damper servo motors appropriately. Combustion air is adjusted to automatically match the composition of the wood fuel at any stage of combustion, and for any variation in the wood fuel. Harmful emissions are reduced and efficiency increases.
Monday, June 1, 2015
Thursday, May 21, 2015
One large maple tree stores more energy than a 2.5 KW PV array will produce in 1 year with New Hampshire sunshine. 50 maple trees could provide more power (thermal energy) than a 5 KW PV array supplies in 25 years (A 5 KW panel will offset all annual power used by a typical NH residence). Surprised? If the United States expressed heat in Kilowatt hours as is done in Europe, the capacity of U.S. renewable thermal generation would astonish most people. About 50 homes in my community of Lyme, NH recently added PV generation of about 250 KW as part of a community wide "Solarize" project, which was fantastic. What few realize is that my company alone added 250 KW with just 3 thermal projects in town during the same time period.
The flexibility and concentrated energy contained in biomass makes it a low hanging renewable energy source. For instance, a cord of wood (128 cubic feet) or a ton of wood pellets used in an efficient boiler will produce approximately 4500 KWH/year, whereas a 2.5 KW PV panel will, according to NREL, produce about 3275 KWH/year in NH. The power advantage is obvious. The flexibility of biomass heating is derived from its exceptional use of stored solar energy. Biomass thermal doesn’t require a south facing exposure or a cloud free day. Biomass is capable of producing thermal Kilowatts anytime because the energy released by a biomass boiler has been stored in advance by nature's living batteries- trees.
Consider all of the recent news about President Obama's battery initiative and Tesla's mega battery plant. People tend to get excited about gee whiz technology and the promise of jobs. Meanwhile, without any fanfare, biomass energy is being stored by nature's manufacturing plants (actual plants) without creating massive quantities of materials that will eventually become hazardous waste. Elon Musk’s battery plant is impressive, but batteries produced there will store a small fraction of energy compared to our forests.
Forests are storing solar energy every day of the year, with zero harmful emissions and with plenty of beneficial emissions for FREE! Wood harvests often result in 75% or more low grade wood, which is not turned into lumber. By using low grade wood as heating fuel, land owners earn more from their forests, encouraging proper forest management and conservation. Sustainable forestry creates zero net carbon emissions and at the tail end of the wood burning process, the ash from wood burning becomes a valuable fertilizer. One ton of wood ash (which is easily certified organic) contains 600 pounds of lime, 200 pounds of calcium, 75 pounds of potassium, and 20 pounds of magnesium.
The biomass thermal sector doesn't need to join or to be threatened by the renewable power revolution. We need people to understand that trees are a productive and natural way to harness solar power. Furthermore, biomass heating should be widely accepted as a valid, inexpensive, and highly flexible form of solar energy. What we do, provide massive quantities of renewable megawatts with sustainably managed forests is unassailable. It is solar energy. Current renewable energy technologies can play an important role in concert with each other. Renewable energy markets don't have to be and can’t be a contest for superiority. There isn’t enough renewable generation from any one source to meet all of our energy needs.
Monday, May 18, 2015
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
We are right in the middle of our Feeling Good about Wood Sale. We know Spring is finally here and it is getting hot outside, but this is the best time to purchase a wood gasification or fully automatic pellet boiler.