Keep The Home Fires Burning

By Elle O’Casey

Supporters of the buy local movement will find a lot to love about biomass energy for residential and commercial heating. The US Department of Energy recently found that 78 cents of every dollar spent on heating oil in New England leaves the region, revenue that often goes to distant states and countries.

Biomass, however, is produced locally in Vermont and New England. Biomass fuel is derived from salvaged organic materials like scrap lumber and forest debris. These materials are used to create electricity and other forms of power to heat homes and buildings. Most sources of woody biomass in Vermont come from sawmills, logging and sustainable timber harvesting, and land conversion. While it wasn’t always the case, today Vermont is a heavily forested state, with 78% of its nearly 6 million acres considered forested. If managed sustainably, Vermont has abounding renewable energy resources right in our backyard. Thus, the appeal of biomass is that it enables Vermonters to achieve energy independence and move away from fossil fuels.

There are a variety of different heating systems running off woody biomass. Some options include central pellet boilers, wood chip boiler systems, pellet stoves, and wood stoves. Many people and organizations across the state already using biomass to heat their homes and businesses. According to VTDigger, over 40 schools use biomass to heat classrooms. One such example is Middlebury College which has been operating a cogeneration plant to heat buildings while producing electricity. If you’re interested in taking a closer look at one local example, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park has a few biomass heating systems using a Garn wood boiler and wood pellet boilers. It is also becoming easier to heat with biomass with door-to-door pellet delivery now available. Bulk pellet delivery trucks can come directly to your home or business to fill storage bins with pellets.
Courtesy: Renewable Energy VT

The State of Vermont has played a role in supporting this renewable energy. In the State’s latest Comprehensive Energy Plan, biomass plays an important role in meeting renewable energy targets. The Vermont Department of Public Service awarded over $900,000 to the State’s Clean Energy Development Fund to “increase the demand and supply for local wood heat.” This included five grants to support bulk pellet infrastructure and 11 grants to assist advanced wood heating system installation. The Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund also offers assistance through the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Incentive Program. One specific rebate available is the Advanced Wood Heating Incentive of $3,000. More information is available at the Renewable Energy Resource Center (RERC). The RERC provides Vermonters with information on the benefits of renewable energy and offer incentives through the the Clean Energy Development Fund.

In addition, Efficiency Vermont offers a number of rebates for installing biomass heating systems. More information can be found here.

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