New research from the NH Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of New Hampshire has shown that the use of wood pellets for home heating fuel results in a decrease of greenhouse gas emissions of more than 50%. John Gunn, research assistant professor of forest management and a researcher with the NH Agricultural Experiment station, headed up the investigation. Other individuals with the Spatial Informatics Group – Natural Assets Laboratory in Pleasanton, California, contributed as well.
The entire presentation of the research results can be found in the journal Energy, in “Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Local Wood Pellet Heat from Northeastern U.S. Forests.”
According to the research, the following conclusions can be drawn:
- It is beneficial to make pellets from up to 75 percent pulpwood and 25 percent sawmill residues.
- Compared to fossil fuel and propane, pellets from sawmill residues exhibited the greatest greenhouse gas benefits (54 percent vs. home heating oil).
- The climate benefits from a shift from pulpwood volume to pellets.
- Results are significantly affected by market scenarios decreasing or increasing harvest levels.
Describing their findings, the researchers said:
“Wood pellet heat is a new and growing heating alternative in the United States and has been proposed as a climate-beneficial energy source to replace fossil fuels. However, little work has been done to assess this claim. The opportunity for switching to wood pellet heat is particularly great for the Northern Forest region of northern Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, which is home to more than two million people who live in rural communities, larger towns, and small cities surrounded by the largest intact forest in the eastern United States.”
Around 42 percent of all energy consumed in the U.S. is for home heating, and most of that comes from fossil fuels.
“While the global concern about greenhouse gas emissions and climate change may be daunting, it is important to understand that as individuals we can make decisions that do scale up to have a beneficial impact to the atmosphere,” said research leader John Gunn. “This work shows that even choices about heating our homes and businesses make a difference.”