Friday, September 30, 2016

Home improvement - Renewable energy - By Robert Fogg

If you step outside and look around, chances are you will see trees, lots of trees, as far as the eye can see. Cut one down, which lets in more sunlight, and new trees will sprout or the remaining trees will grow even faster. 

Trees are actually solar batteries. They absorb energy from the sun and store it there until it gets used (or not). Trees can be utilized as energy in numerous ways. In forestry, trees are chipped and sent to a facility to generate electricity for the grid. In lumber manufacturing, sawdust is burned to power the wood kiln that dries the lumber. Trees can also be processed into firewood or wood pellets to heat your home, your school or your business. 

When wood is burned, it gives off Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Living trees need to absorb CO2 to grow.  This sets up a “Carbon Cycle” where CO2 is continually being released, and then re-absorbed, then released. Wood energy is considered Low-Carbon or Carbon-Neutral because of this carbon cycle.
When fossil fuel is burned, however, it also gives off CO2, but without any means of re-absorbing it later. That fact, plus the fact that our fossil fuel stores are finite and limited, makes fossil fuel non-renewable.  Recent years, the price of fossil fuel has been all over the map. Today, the price happens to be low, but as we have all seen, it can spike in the opposite direction at any time. 

Maine has the potential to be the new “Saudi Arabia of renewable wood energy”. We have vast forest resources and dwindling markets for it, as paper mills close one after the other. Money spent on Maine renewable wood energy is money that stays within the local economy, trickling down to every layer along the way. 

Given all these facts, one might wonder why all Maine households are not utilizing local renewable wood heat. That’s a good question. I believe we are missing a huge opportunity. Modern wood pellet heat is clean, renewable and can be automated to be almost as care-free as fossil-fuel (oil, propane or gas).  Now may be a good time for us to re-consider our priorities, and not only think long-term, but think local and renewable. 

The author is general manager of Q-Team Tree Service in Naples and is also a licensed Arborist. He can be reached at or 207-693-3831.

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