The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,
The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;
The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;
The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;
The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.
Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be
Without wood.

Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Go Wood (Pellets)

I haven't mentioned wood pellet heating much on Go Wood, since I'm a firewood devotee. But wood pellet stoves are the renewable energy heating solution for folks who want to go green with their heating, but just aren't into splitting and stacking, or don't have room to store firewood. Wood pellets are wood chips, particles, and sawdust that are refined to the proper size and shape and then extruded into pellets, the size of which are optimized for flow and feeding into the combustion chamber of the pellet stove.

My new friend Dr. Christian Rakos at Pro Pellets Austria, who is also the President of the European Pellet Council, is featured in the following video, and suggests in it that the pellet market in Europe will grow from its current level of 10 million metric tons per year to over 100 million metric tons within ten years. In order to encourage this level of adoption by European heating consumers, the Europeans have put their heads together and produced a pellet standard, called ENplus, for the pellet supply chain in Europe that will provide consumers there with a high-quality, reliable energy product.

The key to the upcoming dramatic increase in pellet heating in Europe is that due to the population density of the Continent, they are able to establish pellet logistics and delivery systems that give the potential customer comfort in knowing that having pellets delivered is no different than working with any other fuel supplier. Thus, Mr. and Mrs. Smythe don't have to be sturdy woodsmen or heating nerds to feel comfortable about owning a pellet stove...they just need the desire to save the planet and a little money at the same time. It's a market that seems sure to grow.

Here in America, the Pellet Fuels Institute has also organized an effort to produce a national wood pellet standard that focuses on the same product parameters as the European standard. Pellet producers are not required to produce to this standard, but most of the larger companies do, so American wood pellet consumers can have the same assurances as our cousins across the pond. Distribution channels here in the States are not as mature as the European model yet, but any pellet stove owner can pick up pellets at the nearest Big Box or hardware store, if they're not within delivery radius of a pellet supplier.

Wood pellets are more efficient in combustion than firewood, which means you get more BTU's per ton than with firewood. This higher efficiency is offset by the higher cost of pellets; so on average, the fuel cost of heating with purchased firewood and wood pellets works out to be about the same, which is to say, far less than oil, propane, and electric heating. And since pellets are manufactured to screen out bark and dirt, the combustion process is cleaner, with less ash to clean out of the stove each week.

Wood pellet stoves. Wood heat for the rest of humanity.

P.S. Click here if you're interested in learning more about the wood pellet industry in Pennsylvania...

1 comment:

cam said...

My wife and I have a large home on a farm in central Pennsylvania. There is lots of locust and elm firewood just lying there waiting to be used. Even so we put a pellet stove in our upstairs and a wood burner stove in our basement to supplement bottled gas and a heat pump. All I can say is that the pellets and the wood have saved us alot of money.