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Local Energy: Froling

Froling Energy Introduces a New Renewable Biomass Fuel to New England

By Jim Van Valkenburgh

New England is an ideal region for making use of biomass for heat. Trees are plentiful, the logging industry is mature, sustainable harvesting is common practice and fossil fuel heating costs are high. We have been burning wood for hundreds of years as a source of heat.

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The four big Froling TX-150 boilers at Whelen Engineering in Charlestown, NH burned wood pellets last winter but now they are all burning PDCs

Woodstoves are quite a common sight in our region’s homes, installed mainly as a way to contain heating costs but also as a way of living simpler and closer to the land. However, not all homeowners have the capability or willingness for the frequent loading and constant management that a woodstove requires. With the development of the wood pellet some 30 years ago, the invention of the automatic wood pellet stove was a natural response to homeowner demand.

What is a wood pellet?  It’s 100% wood that has been ground up and compressed into small, smooth, regularly shaped granules. Moisture content is about 5%.

With wood pellets being burned for heating at about half the cost of fuel oil, it was only a matter of time (and technology) before larger-scale, commercially viable pellet boiler systems were invented. That happened first in northern Europe where much higher energy costs drove the development of a new category of fully automated, high efficiency wood pellet boilers.

Here in New England, Froling Energy has over 100 municipal, school, commercial, industrial and residential clients in Vermont and New Hampshire who have invested in wood pellet boilers and are successfully using them as their main heating appliance. As a result, hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil are NOT being burned here!

In the last decade innovations have steadily decreased costs, diminished emissions, and increased biomass boiler reliability and burn efficiencies. The use of chipped wood has also taken off as a fuel for large boilers, often in large buildings or “district” heating systems. Usually the fuel for these large boilers has been “green” or fresh, wood with moisture content of about 50%.

Green chips are inexpensive and plentiful but the presence of that much water carries hidden costs. First, you need to burn many more of them just to boil off the water within them. Second, the equipment and infrastructure required to handle them requires a much bigger investment. Finally, air pollution regulations usually require scrubbers and electrostatic precipitators—increasing the initial investment. Large installations can manage these costs but there is a new alternative fuel—the Precision Dry Wood Chip (PDC)—and it presents a better financial picture than either green chips or wood pellets.

PDCs are wood chips with no bark, that are no bigger than a common match book and with a moisture content of 30% or less.

In Europe the biomass market is divided up into thirds among wood pellets, green (wet) wood chips and dry wood chips. However there are just two classes of large biomass boilers:  (1) those that burn green chips and (2) those that burn wood pellets and PDCs.

During the last two years as Froling Energy has installed larger European pellet boiler systems, they included the extra equipment that enabled burning PDCs as well. However, PDCs were not available in the Northeast until September. That is when Froling Energy’s chipping and drying facility came on line. They are now producing over 250 tons a month and growing—and the cost is 30% less than pellets.

So if you see the big Froling Energy box truck on the highway someday, you will know that fresh, dry, clean and locally grown PDCs are being delivered to a manufacturer or school campus near you. Heat local!

About Froling Energy

Froling Energy is a full service Biomass contractor serving New England. They work with owners, engineers and architects to design, install and commission efficient, economical biomass heating systems for educational, institutional, commercial and industrial clients.

For more information visit www.FrolingEnergy.com or call 603-924-1001

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