Maine recieves $3.2 million from Recovery Act heating conversion grants

By Ramona du Houx - May 24th, 2011 

Logging trunk on the way to a wood pellet producer photo by Ramona du Houx

Eleven oil-to-wood heating projects will receive $3.2 million from the federal government in the final round of heating conversion grants.Grants ranging from $25,000 to $500,000 are going to: four schools, four towns, one college, one university and one hospital.

In 2008 Governor John Baldacci started a wood initiative to help the people of Maine transition off oil to using wood as heat and to lessen the state’s dependency on oil. “We are the Saudi Arabia of wood,” he said at that time.

His wood energy initiatives encouraged using wood pellets, converting oil systems to wood burning systems, and helping energy producers,(like Old Town Fuel and Fiber), who are using wood waste to make bio-fuels. At the same time sustainability of Maine’s forests was increased getting rid of the majority of clear cutting practices.

According to John Kerry, Baldacci’s former chief of the office of Energy Independence and Security, Maine has diminished it’s oil dependency due to the wood initiative using the wood to energy task force report-which helped the wood industry. “We’re at about seventy percent oil dependency, now. Down from over 80 percent,” he said during a wind conference last winter.

The Maine Forest Service says the new projects are expected to use 2,171 tons of pellets and 3,035 tons of chips each year. This last round of energy grants came from federal stimulus dollars. The grants are expected to support around 110 jobs through the construction phase of the projects.

Wood pellets photo du Houx