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On January 13th, 2016, the 75th Maine Agricultural Trade Show hosted a series of speakers presenting ways to bring renewable energy to use on Maine’s farms and rural small businesses.
Ryan Hamilton, cofounder and managing partner of Portland’s Interphase Energy, presented on the merits of using biomass energy in residential and commercial settings. Interphase promotes biomass energy through their wood pellet boiler systems. Since 2013, Interphase has imported and installed a highly efficient, fully automated line of pellet boilers from Denmark under the name Kedel.
The boilers reduce the carbon footprint of your heating needs by nearly 90%. Wood pellets are not intensively mined from the ground, refined, and then transported across oceans; they are grown outside your door.
The boilers are designed to fit right into existing heating structures, whether in a home or in commercial settings such as a greenhouse or warehouse. Multiple units can be “stacked” to provide heat for these larger spaces.
All boiler systems are fully automated. Web controllers monitor outdoor conditions and adjust the boiler’s output automatically. The boiler’s owner, Interphase, and the boiler manufacturer can also remotely monitor its performance.
Hamilton emphasized the importance of supporting a localized energy economy. Every year, $5 billion spent on fossil fuels leaves the state; fossil fuels used in heating represents 80% of this figure. Biomass energy is an excellent way to keep more money in our state economy. Maine currently has four local pellet manufacturers: Northeast Pellets, Corinth Pellets, Maine Woods Pellet Company, and Geneva Wood Fuels. The growing biomass industry supports these pellet manufacturing jobs, but also those in timber management. This is all the more important for Maine as critical links in the timber industry, such as pulp and paper mills, falter or close.
A residential boiler runs between $8,000 and $15,000. After a $5,000 Efficiency Maine credit, however, they become very comparable in price to a traditional oil furnace. With an average savings of $1600 per year on wood pellets (compared to oil), homeowners can expect to recoup their installation costs in two to three years. For commercial systems, Maine farmers or rural small businesses may be eligible for loans and grants under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Grant and loan guarantees are available for up to 75% of total project costs. Eligible projects and more information here.
Image courtesy of Interphase Energy.