Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that $3 million has been awarded to 18 research institutions, technology developers and biomass-fuel businesses to encourage the growth of high-efficiency, low-emission wood-fired heating equipment. These projects support the governor’s Renewable Heat NY program, which looks to encourage the expansion of the high-performance biomass heating market and raise consumer awareness, support the development of advanced technology heating products, develop local sustainable heating markets and encourage the use of this renewable fuel.
“By investing in advanced biomass technologies across the state, we are actively reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and building a greener New York,” Governor Cuomo said. "Under our Renewable Heat NY initiative, we are supporting projects that phase out old, inefficient, and polluting technologies and helping to grow the biomass clean energy industry. These efforts will encourage economic growth in local communities and contribute to a cleaner, healthier environment for New Yorkers."
The funding is awarded through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) Energy and Environmental Performance of Biomass-fired Heating Equipment program, which encourages the entry of high-efficiency biomass technologies into the marketplace. Projects will also evaluate real-world conditions of biomass-fired heating systems, expand the bulk wood pellet delivery market and assess the health risks of wood smoke in rural valley communities.
In addition, as part of the Renewable Heat NY initiative, NYSERDA is developing a Biomass Heating Roadmap for New York State, which will be released this year, to assess policy strategies and economic and environmental impacts.
“The projects awarded today will support the continued development of biomass heating technologies that achieve greater levels of efficiency and large reductions in emissions of particulate matter and carbon monoxide,” said John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, NYSERDA. “Governor Cuomo's Renewable Heat NY initiative will decrease the state’s use of fossil fuels and encourage the use of local renewable resources while ensuring that the state’s air quality and public health goals remain a priority.”
- Clarkson University (Potsdam), $80,000 – This project will study the presence of carbon monoxide in wood pellet storage facilities and in the laboratory due to a phenomenon known as "off-gassing." With the growth of wood pellet-based heating systems, off-gassing may present a health risk due to build-up of carbon monoxide under some circumstances. This study will investigate methods to improve air quality in pellet storage areas.
- Clarkson University (Saranac Lake), $267,500 –Two fully automatic high-efficiency and low- emissions wood pellet boilers made by Evoworld (Troy) will be installed in residential locations by Clarkson University. One boiler will be placed in a shipping container outside one of the homes, while the second boiler will be placed in the basement of a second home. The advanced wood pellet heating systems will include thermal storage tanks and bulk pellet storage to enable a fully automatic system with maximum seasonal efficiency. This project will evaluate for two years the performance and emissions of these made-in-New York units under the cold winter conditions in Northern NY.
- The Wild Center & Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks (Tupper Lake), $126,000 – Recipients will add two 850-gallon tanks of thermal storage to an existing combined pellet boiler and solar thermal project at the Wild Center. The program will evaluate the improved efficiency of this system for two heating seasons, which is expected to approach 85 percent. Clarkson University will perform the third party evaluation.
- Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (Lake Placid), $190,000 - This project
will study the winter characteristics of wood smoke particulate matter concentrations in a rural valley community over two winters. Monitoring will identify weather conditions leading to high wood smoke, and help address air quality and public health planning needs.
- Research Foundation of SUNY Canton (Canton), $163,000 – Fully automatic wood pellet heating systems will be installed in three buildings in St. Lawrence County to demonstrate how these systems will operate. Systems include a high performance wood pellet boiler, thermal storage and bulk pellet storage. This project will support high-efficiency, low-emission goals, as well as the bulk wood pellet market, and will be included in SUNY Canton’s heating curriculum and available to the public during open houses at Cornell Cooperative Extension at Canton.
- Northeast Forests LLC (Thendara), $98,000 – This project will evaluate the costs and processes involved in producing and supplying low-moisture-content wood chips. The results will be shared with the forest product community. The intent is to encourage the use of low-moisture wood chips for better combustion that can lead to the creation of moisture-content industry standards, as has already occurred in Europe.
- Vincent’s Heating & Fuel Service LLC (Poland), $110,000 – Vincent’s will purchase an eight-ton-capacity wood pellet delivery truck to expand its residential and commercial delivery capacity, expanding the bulk wood pellet market in upstate New York. NYSERDA funds will be used to give the truck the pneumatic ability to deliver bulk pellets. Vincent's Heating & Fuel Service LLC is a NY-registered Women-Owned Business Enterprise.
- Cornell Cooperative Extension (Ithaca), $66,000 -- The project will replace older wood stoves and a few outdoor wood boilers in the region with wood pellet stoves and wood pellet boilers that provide higher efficiency and lower emissions.
- Finger Lakes Research Conservation and Development Council (Bath), $97,000 – This project will evaluate a commercial biomass boiler designed for grasses, examining both thermal efficiency and emissions performance when burning grass pellets produced in the Southern Tier.
Western New York
- University at Buffalo Research Foundation (Buffalo), $300,000 – The university is working with Econoburn (Brocton) to develop a commercial two-stage wood hydronic heater with improved combustion chamber design and added sensors and controls to improve efficiency and lower emissions.
- Hydronic Specialty Supply (Cassadaga), $227,500 – This project will develop ‘Made-in-NY’ residential and commercial firewood gasification boilers that can maintain high efficiency and low emissions due to an innovative staged-combustion design with smart sensors and controls for optimizing performance. These boilers, coupled with thermal storage, are expected to demonstrate results of double the efficiency of conventional wood boiler technologies, and a corresponding decrease in wood use.
- Advanced Wood Combustion Technologies LLC (East Aurora), $49,000 – The project goal is to create a two-stage retrofit prototype for single stage outdoor wood boilers that can become commercially viable. The goal of the retrofit is to increase thermal efficiency by 40 percent and greatly reduce fine particle and carbon monoxide emissions.
- University of Rochester (Rochester), $300,000 – The University of Rochester’s Medical Center (URMC) will study community levels of ambient wood smoke and its link to cardiovascular disease. Previous URMC studies in Rochester found that 30 percent of wintertime fine particulate matter was from wood smoke.
Central New York
- Clarkson University (Syracuse), $102,000 – Clarkson will evaluate a commercial pellet boiler that has an electrostatic precipitator emission control technology, which is part of the eight million BTU combined heat and power system at SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry’s new Gateway building. Emissions from both premium wood pellets and willow pellets will be examined. Data will benefit a companion Cornell University air quality modeling project.
- Cornell University (Syracuse), $125,000 – This project, in conjunction with the previous Clarkson project, will conduct field measurements of the combined heat and power system at SUNY ESF during the use of two types of wood pellet fuels. The goal is to advance air quality modeling capabilities for use in urban environments.
- College of Science and Forestry (Syracuse), $150,000 – This project will evaluate hot water extraction and flue gas drying technology as an alternative to conventional wood chip drying methods, as the hot water extraction process is one way to reduce ash content. Replicated results with many species indicate a very significant ash reduction for all conditions studied in this project. Reducing the moisture content in wood chips is essential for better combustion and higher performance for advanced wood chip-fired heating units.
- Brookhaven National Lab/The Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (Upton), $300,000 – This project will develop a more accurate and realistic test method for biomass heating systems, which is needed to more accurately evaluate advanced wood heating systems. The lack of such a test remains a significant market barrier for these high-efficiency, low- emissions systems. The work will also result in a lowered cost of testing for manufacturers.
- The National Risk Management Research Laboratory (part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) has received $150,000 to help evaluate the efficiency and emissions performance of a pellet hydronic heater using multiple fuel sources including hardwood pellets and three different types of non-woody biomass (i.e. grass, corn) from New York. This project will inform policy makers at the federal and state level about the performance of non-woody biomass as a fuel source for heating.
More and more, residents, businesses and institutions continue to seek to control heating costs by using firewood, wood chips, wood pellets and, in some cases, pellets made from grasses or other agricultural materials. However, conventional biomass heating equipment such as outdoor wood boilers and wood stoves typically have low efficiency, resulting in emissions of fine particles and carbon monoxide that can create health risks for downwind neighbors.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently seeking comments on a proposal to develop nationwide emissions standards on residential wood heating technologies. In addition, Brookhaven National Laboratory with support from NYSERDA and EPA has recently developed a test method for advanced combustion wood boilers that use auxiliary thermal storage, which will allow consumers to compare products based on efficiency and emission performance.
Research previously supported by NYSERDA and conducted by Clarkson University, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Research and Development has shown that advanced wood pellet boilers -- boilers that use oxygen sensors and other advanced controls to improve burn efficiency -- create more heat and reduce fine particle pollution by 75 to 90 percent compared to conventional commercial or residential wood boilers. Advanced two-stage combustion cord wood-fired boilers with thermal storage can achieve two to three times the efficiency of conventional outdoor wood boilers and fine particle emissions reductions of more than 90 percent.
For more information, visit nyserda.ny.gov/Energy-Innovation-and-Business-Development/Research-and-Development/Biomass-Research.aspx.