Unplugged Energy Independence

Amid soaring propane prices, a rising interest in alternatives

Posted by Kelsey Loeffler on Tue,Feb 11,2014 @ 10:40 AM

describe the image

While sky-high propane prices are causing hardships for many businesses and homeowners, they’re also helping generate interest in renewable alternatives such as wood, solar and geothermal.

Companies that sell solar thermal, geothermal and wood furnaces are reporting an uptick in phone calls and inquiries over the past few weeks as propane customers in the region suffer through near-record prices and localized shortages. (photo courtesy Solar Skies)

The evidence is only anecdotal at this point, and most said the buzz hadn’t yet translated into new sales, but at least one shop is ramping up production in anticipation of new orders.

Northwest Manufacturing, which makes wood-fired furnaces under the WoodMaster brand, started offering overtime this week to workers at its factory in Red Lake Falls, Minnesota, as it attempts to double production. It also plans to make up to six new hires.

“It’s been just a blur since [three weeks ago],” said Todd Strem, the company’s sales and marketing manager. “It’s definitely affected us in a positive way.”

This is typically a slow time of year for heating system sales, Strem said, but WoodMaster’s dealers are reporting a steady stream of people stopping in to ask about the furnaces. The company’s website traffic has more than doubled in the last month.

At Strandlund Refrigeration Heating & Cooling in Mora, Minnesota, salesman Rod Herwig said they’re fielding more calls than usual from people curious about geothermal systems.

“I can’t say it’s overwhelming, but to be honest, yeah, there’s more interest right now than there has been for a bit,” Herwig said. “And now is usually our quiet time.”

Herwig estimated that they’ve received six or seven phone calls in the past two weeks from people seeking quotes or other information about geothermal systems. During busier months, it’s typically only four or five per month.

It’s too soon to say whether that interest will translate into new sales and installations. Herwig suspects that will depend on what happens to propane price in the coming weeks.

“We’ll know six months from now,” Herwig said.

It’s the same story at Solar Skies Manufacturing in Alexandria, Minnesota. The company manufacturers solar thermal systems for hot water and space heating.

“We can feel the interest level has picked up in the last two weeks,” said CEO Randy Hagen. “It’s too early to convert that into new orders yet, but our quoting level for those types of customers has definitely increased — a lot.”

A solar thermal system won’t entirely eliminate a home or business’s heating bill, but a typical system might cover 65 percent of water heating or 30 percent of space heating.

The price for a system varies significantly depending on the size, features and location, but an average cost for a residential system is around $10,000, Hagen said. Some of that cost can be offset with state and federal incentives.

However, amid a spike in propane prices, the payback time on solar thermal, geothermal, and wood heating systems looks much better today than it did at the start of winter.

Northwest Manufacturing sold a WoodMaster system to a school in northeastern Minnesota that was previously heated with propane. Strem said the original payback time it calculated for the school was around six or seven years.

If propane and wood pellet prices were to stay where they’re at — a big “if” — Strem said the school district could break even on their investment in as little as two years.

The Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, a Minnesota nonprofit that manufactures and sells subsidized solar furnaces to low-income families, isn’t yet sure how the propane pinch will affect its program, but program manager Shannon Wheeler said it certainly underscores its importance.

“It makes that work all the more necessary,” Wheeler said. “Our families that are on propane and also have a solar air heat system … are not going through their propane as quickly and hopefully don’t have to refill with these higher prices.”

How long propane prices stay high will likely determine how much of this winter’s interest in renewable alternatives can be converted into new installations later in the year.

Said Strem: “It’s going to make for an interesting year if this continues.”

Article written by Dan Haugen from Midwest Daily News.

Topics: woodmaster, pellet fuel, pellet furnace, Pellet furnaces, renewable fuel, alternative energy, alternative heating, alternative fuel, natural energy, WoodMaster boiler, renewable energy, wood furnace, wood pellet heat, wood pellet heating, WoodMaster Commercial Series

Continued Growth in Pellet Fuel Market

Posted by Kelsey Loeffler on Thu,Oct 10,2013 @ 02:19 PM

wood pellets

The outlook for growth in the fuel pellet market is still positive, although it has been tempered some from earlier overly optimistic projections, attendees learned from several speakers at the Pellet Fuels Institute annual conference held July 29-30 in Asheville, N.C.


The U.S. domestic pellet market has tracked the natural gas market relatively closely, Seth Walker, an associate economist with RISI Inc., told attendees. When natural gas prices were trending higher a few years ago, interest in pellets grew, with pellet stove sales peaking at 140,000 per year in 2008. When the natural gas market nosedived the following year, pellet stove sales dropped by more than half, where the market has held. Given that correlation, natural gas price forecasts indicate a positive outlook for the pellet industry as well, Walker said. Natural gas prices appear to have bottomed out and are forecast to steadily rise. He estimated the U.S. currently has about 845,000 wood pellet stoves that create demand for about 2.33 million tons of product annually. He also projected that 50,000 to 60,000 stoves would be added annually in the next few years.

The global market for pellet fuel in 2012 is estimated at 22.4 million metric tons, said Gordon Murray, executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada. Europe is almost self-sufficient in pellet production at about 12 million tons with North American production coming in at half that of Europe and Russia, the next largest.


wood pelletsIn Europe, the United Kingdom is the No. 1 importer bringing in 855,000 metric tons from Canada last year and another 475,000 metric tons from the U.S. While Canadian pellets dominate the U.K. market, the U.S. is the biggest supplier to the Netherlands and Belgium. Denmark and Sweden receive the most pellets from Russia. He predicted that there will be a new surge for industrial pellets when several power conversions come online in 2015 including Drax and Eggborough in the U.K., EON Langerlo in Belgium and Delta in the Netherlands.


While the EU power market has gotten much attention, Murray pointed out that the heating market comprises 40 percent of the EU pellet market, with no subsidy required. “Pellets are 30 percent cheaper than heating oil,” he said. Currently, 90 percent of Canadian exports are being shipped from western ports and going through the Panama Canal, but an effort is underway to organize the smaller pellet producers in eastern Canada to pool resources and product to develop export facilities in the East.


Arnold Dale with Sweden-based Ekman & Co., said such cooperative efforts among smaller producers is also one way for them to handle the sustainability and ENplus standards requirement to move product into the EU. He explained that Ekman, with its main business in pulp trading, started working in the bioenergy space in 2008, supplying both industrial and retail markets. The sustainability requirements for the industrial markets has some questioning whether to focus more on the consumer side, he explained. “The consumer market in the EU has grown into a very stable market, it is no longer seasonal. People prefer to buy pellets in the summer months.”


The annual increase each year in the EU has hovered around 700,000 tons of pellets for the past few years, Dale said, but is projected to exceed 1 million tons in 2013, based on the sales of boilers and stoves. Italy is showing the most rapid growth currently, having added more than 1 million pellet stoves in recent years. Consumption is expected to exceed production in both Austria and Germany this year, which will add to import demand.


Amanda Lang, senior consultant with Forisk Consulting LLC, closed out the two-day conference with an analysis of projected demand from announced bioenergy projects in the U.S. No advanced biofuels were included as yet, she said, because none had met the company’s criteria for viability, as did only half of the proposed pellet facilities. The criteria included such factors as the use of known technology and project financing, among others. When potential demand is totaled, she said, “the forest products industry will continue to be the vast majority of the forestry market and bioenergy will comprise about 9 percent.”

Topics: woodmaster, pellet fuel, pellet furnace, Pellet furnaces, renewable fuel, alternative energy

PA's Caledonia State Park installs Flex Fuel heating system.

Posted by Kelsey Loeffler on Tue,Aug 13,2013 @ 01:29 PM

WoodMaster Flex FuelCaledonia State Park is the first Pennsylvania State Park to go green with a WoodMaster Flex Fuel heating system.   WoodMaster is one of the leading manufacturers of indoor/outdoor wood boilers that meet EPA Phase II standards.   They have teamed up with European technologies and are now manufacturing the Flex Fuel in Minnesota. 

Craig Doyle, WoodMaster’s local distributor and owner of Doyle’s Woodstoves in Greencastle, PA, installed the Flex-Fuel-60 Series boiler and then invited WoodMaster’s technical representative from their Minnesota headquarters to come to Caledonia State Park to demonstrate this new boiler installation and to train Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) staff in its proper start-up, operation, and maintenance.  The system will be used as the primary heat source for the Park’s maintenance facility and the Pennsylvania Forest Fire Museum located next door. 

The goal of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is to use wood heat to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and for energy diversity.  The Flex-Fuel-60 Series boiler is a downdraft gasification system capable of burning cordwood or wood pellets.   Wood pellets offer low and stable pricing, compared to fossil fuels which tend to be more price volatile.  An 8.5 ton pellet bin has been installed to automatically feed pellets to the boiler.  The bulk delivery of wood pellets will come from locally produced sources.  The option to burn cordwood gives the Park the flexibility to use hazardous trees removed along the Park’s roads and trails, thus providing visitor safety as well as conserving forest resources. 

Downdraft gasification technology ensures that the wood fuel will be burned virtually smoke-free while displacing the pollutants produced from burning conventional fuel heating oil.  During the combustion process, the heat produced will be captured in four 285 gallon insulated hot water storage tanks.  That hot water will be circulated throughout the buildings for heat.  Hot water thermal storage helps ensure that the wood boiler will not smoke like conventional outdoor wood stoves.  Instead, burn wood fuels with a hot fire and capture as much heat energy in hot water storage tanks, avoiding the need to damper-down the combustion process for a smaller or “cooler” fire.  When the buildings demand heat, thermal energy will be there in the hot water storage tanks.  

The Central Pennsylvania Conservancy (CPC) was a great partner during the installation of this new heating system.  As a “Friend of the Park”, Anna Yelk, Executive Director for the CPC, administered a $50,000 grant received from the USDA Forest Service for the purchase and installation of the WoodMaster Flex Fuel heating system.  Paula DeVore, Park Manager for the DCNR Bureau of State Parks - Resource Management and Planning Division and Michael Palko, Biomass Energy Specialist for the DCNR, Bureau of Forestry, played key roles in working with the CPC and WoodMaster to coordinate this project.  The CPC’s mission is to conserve natural resources and open spaces for the benefit of current and future generations through land acquisition, conservation easements, education and outreach in the Central Pennsylvania Region.  Visit their website at www.centralpaconservancy.org.

WoodMaster's Flex Fuel 60 Series boiler fit all the requirements for the grant.  It is qualified and is currently the cleanest product listed on the EPA Burn Wise site. It is reliable, dependable, and offers full automation and self-cleaning features.  Burning wood produces no net increase in greenhouse gas emissions, reduces U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and brings jobs and revenue back into our local economies.

Doyle’s Woodstoves LLC, owned and operated by Craig and Diana Doyle in Greencastle, PA, offers a full line of WoodMaster products such as indoor/outdoor wood boilers, whole house pellet furnaces, pellet grills, and small commercial boilers for greenhouses and poultry/hog farms.  Contact Doyle’s Woodstoves LLC at doyleswoodstoves@gmail.com.

Topics: residential wood heat, woodmaster, flexfuel, pellet fuel, woodmaster flexfuel series, pellet furnace, Pellet furnaces, WoodMaster FlexFuel, Flex Fuel, renewable fuel, alternative heating, renewable energy

Mass. Residents and Businesses to save big on pellet boilers.

Posted by Kelsey Loeffler on Wed,Apr 10,2013 @ 01:42 PM

pellet The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center announced that it is launching a $475,000 incentive program that will help residents install high-efficiency wood pellet boilers in their homes or small businesses.

The grants in this program will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis. Here are some qualifications:

-The installed boiler or furnace must be used in a year-round residence or small business where the building occupant pays into the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust.

-All applicants will need to provide MassCEC with a copy of an electric bill for the project site at the time of application so that MassCEC can verify eligibility.

 -Property owners may submit an application for a property that they own, even if it is not their primary residence or place of business, however the project site must be occupied year round.

 -Grants can be combined with any other local, state or federal incentive, and applicants are encouraged to do this where possible.

Grant amounts will be determined on the following basis, with further details available in the program manual, which can be found below.

Base Grant

Value

Wood-Pellet boiler and furnace central heating units (bulk storage required)

$7,000

Adders

 

Automated conveyance of fuel

$3,000

Thermal storage

$2,000

Solar thermal hybrid system

$1,000

Moderate Income Adder OR Moderate Home Value Adder

$2,000

Maximum Grant

$15,000


It’s possible to get back up to $15,000, though rebates will begin at $7,000 and the average is anticipated to be between $10,000 and $12,000. According to the MassCeC, new wood pellet boilers typically cost around $20,000, fully installed.

Massachusetts residents can learn more about the program, download the program guide and application by visiting the Clean Energy Center website.

Topics: woodmaster, flexfuel, energy-saving boiler, high efficiency furnace, energy-efficient stove, energy-efficient heating, pellet fuel, woodmaster flexfuel series, energy-saving stove, pellet furnace, Pellet furnaces, WoodMaster FlexFuel, EPA qualified furnace, EPA qualified, Flex Fuel

Wood Pellet Heat is a Viable Energy Alternative

Posted by Kelsey Loeffler on Mon,Sep 17,2012 @ 10:47 AM

wood pellet heat

According to ecoRI, oil has long been the primary heating source across much of the Northeast. However, the number of households seeking viable alternatives such as wood pellet heat to expensive oil has continued to rise since about 2008, when the price skyrocketed to more than $4 a gallon in some places.

Sales of pellet stoves and furnaces consequently have been increasing in the United States as more Americans seek affordable alternatives to costly home-heating oil. Attempting to find much-needed relief from record-high prices, consumers are willing to pay the upfront cost for pellet stoves.

In general, pellet stoves pay for themselves in about four years. Both Lowe’s and Home Depot charged $4.18 for a bag of 40 pounds this past winter in the Providence area. Pellets are usually delivered on a 1-ton pallet of 50 40-pound bags that costs between $200 and $300. On average, it takes 2 to 3 tons a year to heat a home, which translates to spending about $900 to heat a typical three-bedroom home with a pellet stove.

Wood pellet heat also offers price stability, as buying an entire year’s supply of pellets in bulk avoids the often-volatile cost of heating oil. For instance, a 250-gallon tank of oil at $3.50 a gallon would cost $875, but the price of oil constantly fluctuates.

Pellet fuel can substitute home-heating oil as an economically viable source of thermal energy for both residential and commercial applications. Pellet stoves first emerged in this country in the 1970s as a response to fuel price instability, according to the Pellet Fuels Institute, a trade group based in Arlington, Va. Pellets typically are made from wood waste produced at paper and saw mills and at furniture manufacturing plants.

Wood pellet heat offers consumers efficiency and environmental benefits over cordwood. Pellets burn more cleanly and more efficiently than wood, according to the Pellet Fuels Institute, because they effectively generate more heat while emitting less pollution.

The sharp rise of heating oil prices has fueled a consumer thirst for viable alternatives such as wood pellets. Pellets so far have replaced about 8 million barrels of oil annually, according to the Pellet Fuels Institute. Such energy displacement helps stimulate the American economy while enhancing national security and helping protect the environment.

Interested in wood pellet heat? Check out the Flex Fuel, Force20, and our newest money-saving product, the Ultra Series.

Contact Us for more information today!

Topics: woodmaster stove, wood pellet, wood pellets, woodmaster, pellet fuel, pellet furnace, alternative energy, wood pellet heat, wood pellet heating, wood master

How one WoodMaster dealer helps people get off the grid...for good

Posted by Kelsey Gagner on Tue,Feb 28,2012 @ 02:45 PM


describe the imageMarc Spinale’s first venture with alternative energy began when he constructed his own solar panel at just seven years old.

Now, he’s started Grid be Gone, a company that sells products to help people become less dependent on the power grid—products that now include WoodMaster stoves.

“My vision is that all people can live in an energy-independent way, and my goal is to offer products and services to help people get there,” says Marc.

After launching Grid Be Gone in spring of 2011, Marc began researching a heating option that would fit his company’s niche. He found WoodMaster and has never looked back.

“With WoodMaster stoves, customers can burn a convenient pellet fuel or, if they live in a rural area, utilize the resources in their own backyard to generate their heat for free.”

Marc has been selling the WoodMaster Flex Fuel Series since July 2011 and plans to start carrying pellet furnaces, including the WoodMaster Force/Renovator Natural Energy heating systems, in the coming months.

Marc says he has had a lot of interest in the stoves so far. People are most excited by the fact that they can burn multiple fuels in the same stove and that they are made in the U.S., he says.

Besides being able to offer his customers a green product that helps lower their heating costs, for Marc, one of the greatest rewards of being a dealer is simply working with the folks at WoodMaster.

“They provide top-notch support to their dealers, and you know they’re standing behind their products,” says Marc. “Working with WoodMaster has allowed me to enter the industry with confidence.”

Grid Be Gone currently sells products through an online store and website, but in spring 2012, customers will be able to check out the stoves in person at his new retail store in downtown Peterborough, N.H.

Visit Grid Be Gone’s Facebook page to see pictures of Marc and his crew installing
WoodMaster stoves and stay updated on the latest energy-efficient trends.

Topics: grid be gone, renovator natural heating system, dealer spotlight, woodmaster force, New Hampshire WoodMaster dealer, north pack renewables, get off grid, green products, marc spinale, woodmaster, energy-efficient heating, pellet fuel, woodmaster flexfuel series, wood master, WoodMaster Dealer, energy independence, lower heating costs

    Subscribe via E-mail

    Follow Me

    Posts by category