Wood Energy: Does It Get Any Cleaner?

Wood energy, an efficient and affordable technology, is one of the most environmentally friendly energy sources at our disposal. It is renewable and sustainable, but it’s locally sourced and contributes to the heating and cooling sector. Renewable energy choices are best made when playing to the strengths of different regions. Michigan has an abundance of […]

Wood energy, an efficient and affordable technology, is one of the most environmentally friendly energy sources at our disposal. It is renewable and sustainable, but it’s locally sourced and contributes to the heating and cooling sector.

Renewable energy choices are best made when playing to the strengths of different regions. Michigan has an abundance of wood where inventories increase every year. A portion of that annual volume could be diverted to renewable energy production.

Another aspect of playing to the strengths of different regions is matching the most suitable feedstocks to the form in which energy is consumed. For much of Michigan, especially northern Michigan, using wood for heating and cooling is a sensible and easily deployable technology.

For the smallest spaces, such as homes and small businesses, using high-efficiency, low-emissions backyard boilers is usually the least expensive option. These boilers can be competitive with natural gas, but the cost savings can be quite significant when propane, fuel oil, or electric heating is replaced with wood.

These high-efficiency outdoor boilers have higher purchase costs, but the payback in lower fuel use is often under five years. So, considering the life of the boiler, the more expensive units are actually cheaper in the long run and better for the environment, too. One of the downsides of these outdoor firewood boilers is that they need their fireboxes loaded daily, and the work involved with making firewood isn’t for everybody.

From Michigan State University Extension: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/does_it_get_any_cleaner

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