Wood heat could be an economic engine for Windham County

Editor of the Reformer:

Windham County is poised to lead a modern wood heat revolution in Vermont — and there are several reasons we should be leading the charge.

Modern wood heat will deliver economic, ecological and community benefits to our county. It will create jobs in forest-based businesses and foster energy independence, both of which Vermonters value. Modern wood heating systems use high-efficiency boilers to heat whole buildings ranging in size from a modest one-story home to apartment buildings to large commercial buildings. Instead of oil, these systems feed on wood pellets or wood chips that are delivered in bulk and stored on-site. When you push up the thermometer, the heat kicks in just as it would with fossil fuel, but you have the satisfaction of knowing that you are heating with a renewable local fuel and that your heating budget is supporting our economy.

Modern wood heating systems produce the lowest emissions of greenhouse gases among home heating fuels. In addition, wood heat is carbon beneficial because the trees that grow back after harvesting consume carbon dioxide. In contrast, fossil fuels transfer carbon stored in the earth's crust into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, and fossil fuels do nothing to filter out carbon dioxide, which lingers for 100 years on average. On top of that, the low sulfur content of wood results in less sulfuric acid and acid rain to damage our trees, lakes, fish and crops.


The benefits of modern wood heat ripple out across our communities. Demand for wood pellets and chips creates jobs in forestry, logging, chip manufacturing and trucking. Homeowners and businesses benefit from the stability of pellet and chip prices, especially as compared to the volatility of oil and propane costs. Municipalities can reduce heating expenses for public buildings. Increased demand for wood pellets creates a stronger market for the low-grade wood that is a by-product of good forestry, helping forestland owners offset the costs of long-term stewardship.

Windham County, the second-most forested county in Vermont, consumes more than 13 million gallons of oil annually at a cost of over $45 million — over $35 million of which leaves the region entirely. Why continue to rely on fossil fuels when we could be a leader in the transition to modern wood heat?

Let's put our buy-local ethic to work when deciding how to heat our homes and schools, businesses and community buildings. Let's take advantage of our able workforce, our vast wood supply, and our centuries-long love of heating with wood. Let's replace oil and propane with a renewable fuel that also fuels our local economy.

Readers are invited to learn more about modern wood heat, including incentives and financing, at a free public information forum Nov. 16, hosted by Windham Wood Heat. The forum is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Marlboro College Graduate Center in Brattleboro. Contact Guy Payne at 802-376-9262 or guy@seon.info to register.

Guy Payne, Brattleboro, Nov. 12