Wood Chip Heating Guide

An in-depth guide for individuals interested in wood chip heating systems.

Different readers will use this guide differently; the types of individuals who will fi nd it useful are outlined in the section “Who Should Read This Guide?” at the beginning of Chapter One. The depth to which readers will study the various chapters will depend on their interest and experience. For example, a school board member whose school is considering a wood-chip heating system may want only a brief overview of automated wood systems and related issues, while a mechanical engineer who has been hired to specify and oversee a system’s installation might want to read the guide cover to cover. The following paragraphs give a brief overview and suggest how readers might use the book.

A Chapter-by-Chapter Overview

Chapter One is intended to be useful to anyone interested in wood-chip systems. Its opening sections (“Who Should Read This Guide?” and “What Kinds of Facilities Use Biomass?”) describe the kinds of settings for which wood-chip systems are appropriate and the people at those facilities who might benefi t from this book. The next section looks at the reasons for considering a wood-chip system. The next section gives an introduction to the sources of biomass fuel. The final section (“What Does a Wood-Chip System Look Like?”) briefl y describes the appearance and function of a wood-chip heating plant.

Readers who want an overview of wood-chip systems might skim Chapter Two, dealing with wood chips and other biomass fuels, and Chapter Three, which lists in detail the components of a wood-chip system. Decision-makers for facilities might spend more time with Chapters Seven and Nine to learn about analyzing the cost-effectiveness of a wood-chip system and fi nding capital to finance the installation. Chapter Eight gives useful information on sources for technical and professional assistance.

Chapter Ten covers a variety of topics of interest to both lay decision-makers and technically oriented participants. Decision-makers and owners will fi nd information here on putting together the pieces of a wood-chip system project, including the role of technical and professional resource people. The message on “The Importance of the System Operator” (page 57) is important for all readers.

A section of Chapter Ten, “Public Involvement, Public Education,” is meant to assist anyone who will interact with the public in proposing a wood-chip heating system. See in particular “Commonly Asked Questions About Burning Wood Chips” on page 58.

The information in Chapter Eleven, “Operating and Maintaining a Wood-Chip System,” will help the owners, managers, or operators of any installation. Along with the installation and first-year operation of a new system, this chapter covers ongoing issues related to maintaining and monitoring a system’s performance.

Some chapters are intended in particular for readers who are concerned with the technical details of a wood-chip system. For example, the mechanical engineer hired to oversee the selection and installation of a chip system will benefi t from a careful reading of all the technical sections, including Chapter Three on system components, Chapter Four on system effi ciency, Chapter Five on emissions, Chapter Six on types of automatic wood combustion systems, and parts of Chapter Ten on implementing a wood-chip system project. The sections of Chapter Ten on performance specifi cations (page 61) and system sizing (page 62) will be especially useful to those responsible for specifying the wood-chip system during the process of selecting a manufacturer.

Chapter Twelve takes a speculative look at the future of biomass. This concluding chapter is intended to give the reader an idea of the larger world of the biomass resource and its possible future uses. The appendices may be consulted as guides to further information on a variety of topics.

The Process of Analyzing and Installing a Wood-Chip System

This guide discusses in detail the steps involved in investigating the feasibility of burning wood chips, studying its cost-effectiveness, and installing a biomass system that will meet your facility’s needs. Here is a brief summary of that process, with citations of the chapters most relevant to each step:

  • First, discuss the concept of biomass burning for energy.

Discuss how your facility could make use of wood chips or biomass energy. What fuel would it displace? How would it integrate with existing systems? Is there a good space for a fuel storage bin and boiler room? Is there any problem with truck access? What is the political climate that might affect decision-making for a biomass system? Who is interested in and supportive of the concept, and who is not? Why? (See Chapters One, Two, and Three.)

  • Review similar installations in your state or region.

Talk with your state energy and forestry offi ces and with others, including system manufacturers, who are knowledgeable about biomass installations in your area. (See Chapter Eight)

  • Research state air quality regulations.

Find out what state regulations, if any, apply to wood-fi red boilers in the size range that your facility would need. Determine what is needed to meet the state environmental regulations, both for air quality and ash disposal. (See Chapters Three, Five and Ten.)

  • Research the availability of biomass fuel.

Find out what forms of biomass are readily available in your area, which suppliers serve institutional and commercial clients, what kind and size of delivery vehicles are in use, and what the prevailing prices are. (See Chapters Two and Three.)

  • Analyze the potential and the cost-effectiveness of burning biomass.

Study the economics of using biomass for heat, specifi c to your facility. (See Chapter Seven.)

  • Decide whether to install a biomass system.

Using the results of your analysis, weigh both the economic and other criteria and decide whether installing a biomass system makes sense for you. (See Chapter Ten.)

  • Set up the project structure for installing a wood energy system.

Secure financing (Chapter Nine); put together the project team and apply for all permits (Chapter Ten); research options for system design (Chapters Three, Four, Six, and Eight); produce wood-system specifi - cations and solicit bids from system manufacturers and installers (Chapter Ten). Fully involve decisionmakers and the general public (Chapter Ten).

  • Select a biomass system.

Review the bids, select the system that best suits your requirements and fi ne-tune the options and system components. (See Chapter Ten.)

  • Install and commission the selected system.

Contract with the selected installer, oversee the installation, and make sure that the system operates as it should. (See Chapter Eleven.)

  • Maintain the system for peak performance.

Maintain the system on a regular schedule, monitor its performance, and keep good records to document its effectiveness. (See Chapter Eleven.)

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