North Country
5:36 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

The Search Is On: Colder Winter, Fewer Wood Pellets

Broadcast version
Credit D-Kuru/Wikimedia Commons

Those big stacks of wood pellets typically seen each fall in the parking lots of big box stores aren’t so easy to find right now. And, that’s posing a challenge for people like Andy Langlois of Berlin.

He heats with pellets and has become a hunter-gatherer.

“I had to start calling around as well as just stopping by places just to see if anybody has them and then how many they have,” he said.

Around the state stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot are often coming up short, spokeswomen for the companies acknowledged.

The problem is that people thought last winter was pretty warm so they figured this winter would be the same, says Dave Nydam, the CEO of Woodpellets.com in Bedford.

The region has plenty of pellet manufacturing capacity normally but an unexpected, peak demand is hard to meet, says Charlie Niebling, a consultant for New England Wood Pellet, which has a plant in Jaffrey.

“Certainly for the past month or so supplies have been tight,” he said. “All three of New England Wood Pellet plants are working at full capacity, twenty-four, seven.”

So, it takes a little more work to find those bags of pellets.

The shortage doesn’t seem to be affecting customers who buy in bulk.

Those are people who get tons of pellets delivered by truck – often under a contract – to heat homes or businesses.

“These users generally purchase multiple tons at a time, and make arrangements for delivery – a very different model than swinging by the hardware store every few weeks to fill the backset of the car with bags of wood pellets,” said Eric Kingsley, an analyst and the vice president of Innovative Natural Resource Solutions.