Mid-summer is not too soon to think about heating next winter. By August, forest trees are beginning to prepare for the coming winter. With recent attention to the importance of local food production, we should consider ways to meet our heating needs using local wood energy.
NH remains the second most oil-dependent state in the country for residential, commercial and industrial heating. Sixty-three percent (63%) of NH residents or 250,000 households rely on oil - or propane made from petroleum - for heat. NH exports nearly $800 million annually to import fossil heating fuels. 80% of every dollar spent on heating oil and propane leaves NH for good. Most heating oil used in the Northeast comes from Venezuela, Mexico and the Middle East. Little comes from the US or Canada. We’d retain $200 million annually in the NH economy if we reduced dependence on imported energy by 25%.
Wood pellet heat is gaining popularity. U.S. pellet mills already make more pellets than any other country. Pellet production worldwide more than doubled between 2006 and 2010. Because pellets are small and compact, they’re easier to transport in bulk than other forms of biomass, including wood chips. Pellet prices are rising with that popularity in European markets.
Strong markets for the sawdust, waste-wood and low quality wood used to manufacture pellets can improve forestry. Pellet manufacturers provide valuable markets and jobs to loggers, sawmills and secondary wood manufacturing including furniture, flooring, cabinetry and millwork. Wood residues, once considered waste products, now represent a high value energy commodity.