Incentive enables switch from oil to wood pellet boilers for participants in Farmington and Wilton
FARMINGTON – The first three high-efficiency wood pellet boilers have been installed as part of the Model Neighborhood Project in Farmington and Wilton, Maine, and a dozen more installations are in process.
“In the first two months I've already saved $1,200,” said Tor Goettsche, who owns a three-unit apartment building in Farmington. “I anticipate saving approximately $3,600 a year, which will help me delay increasing the cost of rent for my tenants even though other costs have gone up.” The Model Neighborhood Project’s goal is to help the Northern Forest region move away from dependence on imported oil toward a local energy source that will create jobs and strengthen the forest economy.
Homeowners can expect to save 40-50 percent on home heating costs by switching from oil heat to high efficiency wood pellet boilers. “These boilers are not pellet stoves, and definitely not the back- yard burners that can be so unpleasant,” said Maura Adams, program director for the Northern Forest Center. “These are automated wood pellet boilers that completely replace an oil burner and are hooked directly to the home heating and hot water system. They’re extremely efficient and make excellent use of the energy available from our forests through wood.”
Richard and Crystal Wilde expect to save about $1,200 a year on heating bills for their single-family house now that they’ve installed a pellet boiler through the Model Neighborhood Project. “We were very motivated by the savings,” said Crystal Wilde, “and being able to use a renewable and local fuel source helped us make the decision to install the wood pellet boiler.”
The Northern Forest Center and Western Maine Community Action (WMCA) are partnering on the project, which offers a financial subsidy of $3,000 toward the purchase and installation of a wood pellet boiler for qualified participants. In addition, the state of Maine offers a $5,000 state rebate for high efficiency pellet boilers, bringing the total subsidy to $8,000. Homeowners also may be eligible for PACE or PowerSaver loans offered by Efficiency Maine. The Center offers a $10,000 cash subsidy for selected non-residential projects.
Over the 25-year life span of the boilers being installed by the project, participants will avoid purchasing 3.7 million gallons of home heating oil and the project is expected to generate more than $23 million in total positive economic impact for the region.
“This winter really makes the case for switching to a wood pellet boiler,” said Bill Crandall, Housing and Energy Services program manager for WMCA. “Oil heat eats a sizeable portion of the average family’s budget. Switching to pellet boilers creates savings and helps create jobs in forestry and heating. Buying our energy locally is a sustainable way to support our Maine economy.”
A key element of the project is to create a geographic concentration of pellet boiler users and help 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.
The Maine Model Neighborhood Program builds on a similar project implemented in Berlin, NH by the Northern Forest Center and local partners. Forty residents and two non-profits in Berlin have converted to wood pellet boilers since the end of 2011, and savings so far exceed $98,000. “Switching to pellets made from wood that is grown and processed in the Northern Forest keeps 100 percent of the money spent on this alternative fuel in the local and regional economy,” said Maura Adams, program director for the Northern Forest Center. “Conversely, nearly 80 cents of every dollar spent on imported heating oil leaves the local economy.”
The Model Neighborhood Project will help up to 25 homeowners and 15 non-residential buildings in western Maine convert from oil heating systems to wood pellet boilers over the next two years. Residential incentives will be available only to single-family residences or owner-occupied multi-unit buildings serving as primary residences in Farmington or Wilton, Maine. Selection of project participants will be based on criteria including diversity of housing stock, diversity of annual heating demands, suitability of space and existing heating infrastructure (chimney, circulation system, etc.), and willingness and ability of homeowners to represent their experience to others.
Participants will receive a free home energy audit and several hours of air-sealing work to improve their home’s energy efficiency, and may be eligible to take advantage of Efficiency Maine’s PACE or PowerSaver loans.
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.
Funding from the Doree Taylor Foundation, Efficiency Maine Trust, Jane’s Trust, the Rural Jobs Accelerator Challenge of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities and the Wapack Foundation is supporting the expansion of the Model Neighborhood Project to Farmington and Wilton. The Northern Forest Center is a nonprofit organization that helps create economic opportunity and community vitality from healthy working forests in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.
Western Maine Community Action is a social service agency that has been providing services for over 45 years to people living in the western mountain region of Maine. The organization is dedicated to the principle of promoting the self-sufficiency of people.