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  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    New England Wood Pellet
  • Staff Photo by Grant Morris

    The silo in the rear of the school feeds pellets automatically when sensors inside indicate the hopper is running low. It can hold 42 tons of pellets.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    The biggest biomass-related company in the region is New England Wood Pellet in Jaffrey, which produces 250 tons of pellets an hour. Shown here are two trailer trucks full of raw material; wood chips on the left, sawdust on the right. The sawdust is blown into the trailer at the factory where it is created, and is packed so tightly that it turns into a spongy solid mass.
Sunday, February 19, 2012

New state list: Heating with wood pellets cheaper than oil, propane, but not natural gas

CONCORD – In a sign of continuing inroads made by wood pellets in the state, their price is now being tracked by the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning, alongside traditional heating fuel sources such as oil, natural gas and propane.

The information about average statewide costs for bulk-delivered fuels is derived from a survey of five companies providing bulk pellet delivery service in New Hampshire. It shows that wood pellets are far cheaper than heating by heating oil or propane, although more expensive than natural gas.

This week, 1 million BTU’s of heat cost: natural gas ($13.50), cord wood ($17.50), wood pellets ($18.03), No. 2 heating oil ($34.97), kerosene ($39.56), electricity ($41.50) and propane ($46.86).

Pellets are made from compressed sawdust. Their uniform size and shape allows their delivery into a furnace to be automated, as compared to logs, so that heating can be controlled by thermostats, as with fossil fuels.

Although best known as a source for individual stoves, pellets or a similar product, wood chips, can be fed by augers into whole-house boilers or industrial-sized machines that can heat schools or factories.

The region’s biomass producers say pellets and wood chips could ultimately provide up to 20 percent of New Hampshire’s heat, compared to the current figure of about 4 percent.

The industry claims that nearly 5 percent of New Hampshire homes heat with wood pellets or other renewable energy. Heating uses nearly 40 percent of New Hampshire’s energy.

The federal Stimulus Funds Rebate Program is kick-starting the switch to wood pellet central heating in homes by offering rebates of up to 30 percent or up to $6,000 of installed cost for systems for primary residences.

Information about the residential wood pellet rebate program is on the Public Utilities Commission website:

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or