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New York State Wood Heat Report

April 14, 2016 Report

A recently completed NYSERDA study concluded that clean, high-efficiency wood-heating has the potential to promote business opportunities and jobs while reducing reliance on fossil fuels in New York State. Approximately 2 percent of New York’s heating needs are currently met with wood. That number could double with fuel supplies predicted to be available in the State.

The study identified the potential for large variations in air quality impacts from wood-burning. Currently, many in-use units are improperly sized or incorrectly installed, and employ high-emitting and inefficient technologies that can result in air quality concerns. However, advanced technologies are expected to become more available and if properly sized, installed and operated, can significantly reduce these impacts. Newer, advanced wood burning units that use “Best Available Technology” might have higher, up-front costs but over the lifetime of the unit, they are significantly more cost effective and reduce emissions compared to typical wood heat systems. Maximizing efficiency is the key to maintaining cost-competiveness, especially when oil prices are low.

There are significant challenges that need to be overcome to significantly increase biomass heating while ensuring public health protection. As New York State embarks on programs that encourage the expanding use of biomass as a renewable fuel for heating, appropriate policies will be needed to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks associated with such growth. Of primary importance are policies that promote a robust market for cleaner and more efficient wood-burning devices. Achieving this outcome will require educated consumers. The report recommends targeted public education and outreach to better inform consumers considering the purchase, installation, and use of biomass units. Additionally, the report identifies the need to increase the capacity of the existing wood-burning device installation and retail sectors, along with continued support for research on a wide variety of unanswered questions related to wood heating.

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