Joel Haskard of Minnesota Clean Energy Resource Teams had a chance to chat with WoodMaster co-founder and President Chuck Gagner about their biomass boilers and furnaces, and the industry here in Minnesota. Read on to hear what Chuck had to say!
Joel Haskard: How do you see the health of the biomass industry here in Minnesota and nationally as well?
Chuck Gagner: I feel over the past couple years the residential market took a dip due to the economy and low propane prices. This is making a good rebound now. A strong interest recently is the farm industry: poultry and turkey growers, greenhouses, etc. Wood pellets offer low and stable pricing, compared to fossil fuels which tend to be more volatile. In fact, pellet prices are pretty much the same as they were ten years ago when adjusting for inflation. A good way to understand the price benefits of pellet fuel is to compare it against other heating fuels. See for yourself here. Wood chips can range from $3-$5 per million Btu, being the most cost-effective source of heat.
Joel: Many of the WoodMaster products seem to be based on European technology but are manufactured right here in Minnesota. What attracted you to these specific kinds of boilers?
Chuck: Having worked with EPA for several years on a test method for our product and understanding the low emissions levels that were being discussed, we felt that the technology that Europe offers is very advanced and is a more sure way to meet the EPA projected emission levels. Another positive was that the product was time-tested and proven for durability and reliability. These were the main reasons for teaming up with European technology and building the product right here in Minnesota.
Joel: How do they perform with the EPA guidelines?
Chuck: The WoodMaster Flex Fuel Series is Phase II EPA qualified and is currently the cleanest product listed on the EPA’s Burnwise website. This clearly explains that the technology within the furnace is extremely advanced.
Joel: There was one specific unit that seemed to have real potential for poultry, turkey, and greenhouses. Could you tell us more?
Chuck: The WoodMaster Commercial Series pellet and/or chip hot air furnace is a great fit for poultry and turkey farms and greenhouses. The size range is .5 million – 1 million Btu/hour. Using this hot air furnace would give the quickest return on investment. This is a much drier heat than, for example, propane and has a very positive effect on the growing conditions.
Joel: Have any of these units been installed here in Minnesota?
Chuck: Currently a small amount of units have been installed in Minnesota, larger amounts in other states. The results are extremely positive and we are anticipating a lot more units to be installed in the upcoming months.
Joel: Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share with folks interested in biomass?
Chuck: I would like to encourage people to look closely at the new biomass technology that is offered. Great features, primarily with pellet and chip boilers and furnaces, include being fully automatic, self-cleaning, reliable and dependable. Burning wood produces no net increase in greenhouse gas emissions while reducing U.S. dependency on foreign oil supplies and brings jobs and revenue back into our local economy.
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