Replacing oil burners with wood pellet boilers will help keep wealth in local economy
LYNDON – The Model Neighborhood Project will help build a density of high-efficiency wood pellet boiler installations in nine northern Vermont towns, making the Northeast Kingdom a hub of wood pellet heat use. The project will show that clean-burning wood pellet heating systems can completely replace oil and propane boilers, demonstrating the reliability and cost savings of bulk-fed, high-efficiency pellet boilers in non- residential buildings and homes.
“This one program will do three significant things,” said Maura Adams, program director for the Northern Forest Center. “It will help businesses and homeowners lower their heating costs; it will increase demand for wood pellets, which supports jobs in our forest-based businesses; and it will keep money circulating in the local economy rather than being exported. For every dollar we spend on heating oil, 78 cents leaves the local economy. When we buy wood pellets, every dollar stays here.”
To create a hub of wood pellet heat users in northeastern Vermont, the Model Neighborhood Project will serve working-lands businesses such as sawmills, farms, farm-to-table restaurants and maple producers; other types of non-residential buildings including municipal and non-profit buildings; and a limited number of residential participants (initially 5 homes). To be eligible, buildings being retrofitted must be in one of the following nine towns: Lyndon, Burke, Sutton, Newark, East Haven, Sheffield, Wheelock, Kirby and Stannard.
The Northern Forest Center is partnering with RuralEdge, Efficiency Vermont and the Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA) to bring the Model Neighborhood Project to the Northeast Kingdom. Funding for the program comes from the High Meadows Fund, the Working Lands Enterprise Board, and the federal Rural Jobs Accelerator Challenge of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.
“This is a great opportunity for anyone in our region who wants to lower their heating costs and switch to a local, renewable source for their heat,” said Dave Snedeker, executive director of NVDA. “Oil heat is expensive for businesses and families in our climate. Switching to pellet boilers will reduce heating expenses and create demand for a local, renewable energy source. Buying our energy locally is a sustainable way to support our economy.”
“People in the program can expect to save 30 – 40 percent on their heat compared to oil,” said Adams. Homeowners selected for the program will be required to complete a BPI Energy Audit through a designated provider and go through Efficiency Vermont’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. Cost to participants is $150 for the $500 audit service, plus potential energy efficiency upgrades depending on the home. Non-residential project participants will be required to take advantage of a free energy efficiency assessment with Efficiency Vermont staff by phone or email.
Over the 25-year life of the wood pellet boilers installed in non-residential buildings, participants will eliminate 3.2 million gallons of oil. By purchasing wood pellets instead of oil, participants will help keep more than $11 million in the regional economy and generate about $20 million in positive economic impact. The Vermont Model Neighborhood is part of the Center’s renewable energy program, which is building the market for high-efficiency, low-emission wood pellet boilers for homes and small-scale commercial installations in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York and advocating for supportive public policies on the state and federal levels.
“The Model Neighborhood Project is a great success in Berlin, New Hampshire, where 40 homeowners and two non-profits have saved more than $120,000 on fuel and generated more than $480,000 in positive economic impact for the regional economy since early 2012,” said Adams. “In Farmington, Maine, 12 homeowners and two churches have taken advantage of the program so far to switch from oil to wood pellet heat.”
The “model” neighborhood concept creates a geographic concentration of pellet boiler users that helps develop the pellet delivery systems, installation and maintenance support that will make it easier for others to switch to pellet heating and allow the community to experience the convenience and savings of the high efficiency pellet boilers.
Other benefits of the program include strengthening markets for low-grade wood, which provides a financial incentive to forestland owners to keep their forests intact, and opportunities to stabilize and increase employment in forest-based businesses.
The Northern Forest Center helps create economic opportunity and community vitality from healthy working forests in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.
The Northeastern Vermont Development Association serves the people, municipalities and businesses of the Northeast Kingdom region as both a Regional Planning Commission and a Regional Development Corporation.
RuralEdge is a rural regional housing non-profit organization, committed to breaking the cycle of poverty in our communities by providing caring and quality housing and community development, property management, financial services, and education in order to attain economic, social and environmental sustainability.
Efficiency Vermont was created by the Vermont Legislature and the Vermont Public Service Board to help all Vermonters reduce energy costs, strengthen the economy, and protect Vermont’s environment. www.efficiencyvermont.com.
Maura Adams, Program Director, Northern Forest Center