In the 19th century, the noted doctor Simon Baruch encouraged bringing European style spas to the United States, and thus Saratoga Springs, with its wealth of mineral waters developed as a spa, seeing many hotels built, including the Grand Union Hotel that was, in its day, the largest hotel in the world, and the United States Hotel. In 1863, Saratoga Race Course opened and moved to its current location the following year, greatly expanding the city's reputation as a tourist destination.
- from Wikipedia
I wandered around the town upon arriving and found a great location called Franklin Square. In the 1830's and 1840's the square was the fashionable place to live where some of the most powerful and wealthy local families presided. Some of the fine private residences evolved into small but elegant hotels, where the "water cure" the town was famous for was practiced. The pictures below don't quite capture the true elegance and magnificence of the homes, but I think you can see some of the fantastic woodwork that was practiced in the era.
A Memorial in Wood. Below is one of several pictures I took of an old maple that had overtaken a old wrought-iron fence, literally bending and lifting the iron as it grew.
I also saw some neat products, including the Wittus Twinfire free-standing wood stove that featured what some stove vendors call "gasification" but is more properly called two-phase combustion, where the gaseous emissions from the primary combustion are captured and combined with oxygen to provide additional combustion energy. This process is being utilized to improve the efficiency of many brands of wood and pellet boilers, and can be seen well in this video of the Twinfire stove, provided courtesy of Sandra Lena of Wittus.
Another nice thing being promoted at the show was a Wood Stove Design Challenge, sponsored by The Alliance for Green Heat.
I asked the president of the alliance, John Ackerly, to explain the reasoning behind the contest, and he was nice enough to explain it for me on video. Sorry about the wind noise on the video, it dies down after the beginning. Those of you interested in the contest may want to hear John explain exactly what they are looking for in the submissions.
The conference closed on a high note with a short speech by US Congressman Chris Gibson of New York. It was nice to hear one of our newer, younger national politicians speaking highly of renewable energy, and why he has a personal reason for supporting its development. The video below was shot during his opening comments.
I also had an opportunity to make a pitch to a conference attendee, a young lady named Sarah who just happened to be a cheerleader for the New England Patriots.
I think I had her sold on a wood stove for her new house, until I mentioned I was a Steeler fan.
My take-away from the conference was that biomass projects and markets are still developing, even with the rise of the booming natural gas industry. It was great to hear speaker after speaker focus on the real benefits of biomass energy utilization, which are dollars to local economies, and its role in forest improvement and stewardship. I perceived subdued confidence from the participants that wood heating, in particular, will gradually attain its appropriate, sustainable share of the U.S. heating markets.
And why not? It only makes sense.
P.S. For those of you in the Midwest, there is another biomass heating conference being held in April in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Here are the details.