Could we heat sustainably with Wood in Atlantic Canada?

Some of you have asked whether we could rely on a regional wood strategy to heat Atlantic Canada.

Roy MacMullin is one of the people I follow – He brings deep understanding and knowledge to the practical aspects of what confronts us on the energy front.

In this important article he makes the case that with the decline of logging and paper, that Atlantic Canada has the wood supply to support all the regions heating needs. Even better he shows how, by keeping the money in the region and by creating a major business in this field builds our wealth as we contain all the money inside our own realm:

80% of homes in PEI, 25% in New Brunswick and roughly 65% of Nova Scotia use oil as the heat source. Approximately 1.3 billion liters of fuel oil are burned each year in Atlantic Canada. At last years price of 91 cents, that was $1.2 billion. At present day prices of $1.43 / liter, the new bill is $1.86 billion, a difference of $660 million. Next year, who knows? If families locked in a good price last fall, the sticker shock will only hit them later this year

To put our oil refugee’s plight into perspective, 1.3 billion liters of fuel oil is equivalent to 11.5 billion kWh’s or 11 times the annual usage of Saint John Energy. It is 61% of the output of NB Power’s system. The peak that it would create on the Atlantic grid would be 2500 MW or more, which is equivalent to four new Lepreau 1 units or 2.5 units of the new AECL 1000.

Looking at a wood alternative, we would have to cut 2.8 million cords of wood to replace this volume of oil. To compare, the existing residential usage of hardwood in New Brunswick is roughly 500,000 cords each year.

Using wood as a solution requires an additional 332 thousand cords to be harvested annually to displace the New Brunswick fuel oil requirement. This shouldn’t be a problem with mills shutting down. Pellets and briquettes can use softwood that is compressed to provide the same heat density of hardwood, with less moisture content.

Wood heat could very quickly meet the requirements of a conversion program. The reduction of oil purchases of 943,000 barrels would retain $137 million a year in the New Brunswick economy as opposed to sending it offshore. Over the years, this would be the equivalent of investing over a billion dollars in the local economy. If Efficiency NB extended their offer of $2,250 to oil heat customers converting to wood, it would go a long way toward alleviating the problems of oil prices. The cost of the providing stoves would be $135 million (60,000 x $2,250), probably spent over a number of years.

The use of EPA rated stoves ensures an efficiency of 70% and emissions that are less than 10% of previous generation stoves. In urban areas, the use of pellet or briquettes may have to be mandatory with round wood as a rural option.

We are at the beginning of an emergency, perhaps a low intensity war. This change from low cost energy to high cost energy will sap our resources, leave us poor and eventually cold. If we fail to adapt to the heating oil challenge as well as the other aspects of peak oil, we lose. Do you see the leadership that we need to ensure that we don’t freeze in the dark?

As we struggle to find our way in a world we cannot control – this is more than a ray of hope.

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2 responses to “Could we heat sustainably with Wood in Atlantic Canada?

  1. Hello there!
    Very good article! As a project-engineer of Wood Energy Switzerland I’m always interested in things that are going on about wood energy all over the world. In fact Wood Energy Switzerland has experiences of more than 20 years in this field. We provide general informations, studies, lobbying and so on all over Switzerland. May be it’s time for a trans-atlantic cooperation. We’ll see!

  2. I just read about a woman who was interested in cooking on a kitchen wood stove I seggest that you check out antique kitchen stoves they seem to be the best you might have to replace some refractory or fire brick but the the old time stoves were disined to heat and cook on. My sister has one that she swares by. I recently took the grate out of my fireplace and replaced it with a grate heater and now I’m heating my whole house with my fireplace. A fireplace is about 5% heat efficient and this they claim makes it a 120,000 BTU per hour furnace and I believe it you can’t make to big of a fire or you will run you’re self out.I have 3.2 acers of mountain land in Pa. and cutting wood is a lot of work luckly my house is down hill. I bought the grate heater on ebay it was called insertafurnace it was the only one with a screen. I also found the website http://www.insertafurnace.comes by. Good luck with cooking on wood it’s all about fire management.

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