FEBRUARY 2021 | A NOTE FROM STACY COOK
EXTREME COLD, ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE, & BIOMASS HEAT
This Valentine’s Day weekend brought subzero temperatures to the Midwest and below-freezing temperatures as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. The extreme cold weather pushed the natural gas and electricity transportation systems to near a breaking point. As I write this on Thursday, there are still millions of residents of Texas who are without power to heat their homes, many are without water, and the natural gas delivery system continues to struggle with supplying gas to customers due to freeze-offs at wellheads and injection points on the system.
The infrastructure that delivers energy into our homes in the United States is extensive and intricate, and very dependable when the system is kept in balance. Severe weather can quickly disrupt that balance. Winter storms are no picnic in the Midwest if utility services are lost for an extended period of time, it is not only uncomfortable but can be dangerous to your property and persons if you lose the ability to heat your home.
When I was growing up in a small town 30 miles from the Canadian border most of my neighbors had wood stoves, some were no more than a simple barrel stove. They were not very efficient, but when the power went out nobody froze and plumbing remained intact because everybody had a store of BTU's in their woodpile that could be utilized to heat the home. We had BTU security in a region without natural gas service, and with some of the coldest winter weather in the lower 48 by using locally available non-marketable biomass residues. (if you read “Little House on the Prairie” when you were a child, you read about how Almonzo and Charles used tightly twisted bundles of straw as stove fuel to survive through a blizzard on the Dakota plains. In some modern facilities, various byproducts of agriculture and food grain processing are an important feedstock in the creation of both heat and power.)
Modern wood heating appliances have become much more efficient, cleaner-burning, and safer than the wood stoves of years past. If you are considering a backup heat source or primary, whether in your home or in your business, and you have access to chips, pellets, firewood, cordwood, or other forest and agriculture residues, heating with biomass might be just the thing for you.
I would encourage you to give consideration to plentiful and renewable biomass for your next heating application. The members of the HTM steering committee can help connect you to individuals that can provide insight or assistance with your biomass heating plans.