Our Own Best Advocates
One of the most impressive aspects of the pellet industry is the passion that so many producers have for market development. Pellet producers, perhaps more than any other renewable energy producer, understand the vital importance building a market for their product, customer by customer.
This quarter’s issue of Pellet Mill Magazine, the first in a year that will no doubt be marked by continued quarter-by-quarter growth in the export market, doesn’t forget the producer aiming not for foreign utilities, but instead for customers with homes, businesses, art centers and communities to heat. As long as this industry is populated by professionals like Superior Pellet Fuels LLC’s Chad Schumacher, the industry will continue to win new customers and new market share. In this month's interview with Schumacher, he is explicit about his market development activities stating, “We have worked directly with a number of small businesses to finance and install pellet burning systems including boilers, furnaces and stoves.”
Fellow pellet producer Jonathan Kahn, (and Pellet Mill Magazine editorial board member) on literally the opposite end of the continent, understands the same thing, and is taking similar action. In Chris Hanson’s feature about the work at Berlin, N.H., to become a model community for the greater deployment of pellet-derived heat, Kahn doesn’t hesitate to point to the bottomline impact of grassroots market development saying, “The growth of pellets has definitely been going up in a big way, with our business and, specifically, in bulk.” Kahn and Schumacher both know that for every new pellet furnace installed, a long-term customer comes along with it.
Finally, I’d like to offer my gratitude for the professionals that patiently walked me through the intricacies and key differences between facilities like the ones Kahn and Schumacher operate and the facilities being financed and built to serve the burgeoning export market. I open my feature “Blazing New Trails in Pellet Project Development” by establishing that among the 14 pellet plants under active construction the average size is nearly six times the size of the 150 or so that already exist. The differences in how they are financed, built and operated are both dramatic and still emerging.
This promises to be an intriguing year. Producers selling into domestic marketplaces will no doubt continue to win customers on a boiler by boiler basis while the developers aiming to capture a share of the exploding export market will race to get up, online and shipping pellets.