Clarkson Studying Residential Wood Pellet Heat in Saranac Lake

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo 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.”

AUDIO – 021814 – Research Grants for Clarkson University and for The Wild Center on Biomass Fuels
Award recipients:

North Country

  • 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.


  • 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.

Phillip HopkeMore 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.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.