Wood-pellet heat systems pitched to lawmakers 

By Ed Schoenfeld of CoastAlaska News: Backers of biomass energy pitched wood-pellet heat as a money-saver during a legislative hearing today (Feb. 21st).  Alaska Energy Authority staff and others talked to the House Committee on Economic Development about the Southeast Alaska Integrated Resource Plan. The document recommends developing more pellet and other wood heat, as well as some expanded hydroelectric generation.

AEA Biomass Program Manager Devany Plentovich said high fuel prices have driven many residents to heat with electricity instead of oil.  “Unfortunately, as we’ve switched so much to the space heating, we’ve seen the reserve hydro just disappear to a remarkable rate. It’s at the point where our utilities are having to supplement the hydro during the winter season with diesel generation.  And that’s very high-cost diesel generation,” she said.

Southeast lawmakers and other officials have called for more hydroprojects with more connections to more communities.  But the resource plan calls for a larger focus on wood heat, in businesses, offices and schools.  And some are already making the switch.  Plentovich said wood-pellet heat costs less than oil-powered systems, and has about the same price tag as electric ones. And, she said, boiler conversions are short-term investments.

“The Sealaska building, that’s going to pay back in about four and a half years. The Kake school, if that gets funded through the renewable energy fund, that’s got about a six- to seven-year payback. The Coast Guard in Sitka is looking at about a five-year payback. So these projects have a great economic story,” she said.  Read more

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