New York to launch biomass heating initiative

By Anna Simet | January 09, 2014

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has released his agenda for 2014, which includes plans to launch a biomass heating initiative in the state.

Como’s agenda outline describes Renewable Heat NY as “a long-term commitment to help the high-efficiency and low-emission biomass heating industry reach scale.”  In its first year, the program will aim to raise consumer awareness and develop the larger-scale anchor customers that energy firms need to begin the transition of their heating oil delivery fleet to bulk biomass. 

The program is also being designed to facilitate workforce training and manufacturer support for field testing, equipment certification and early stage product development. It is to begin with issuance of a state policy roadmap for accelerating the use of biomass for heating using the most efficient, low-emission technologies, and will identify pilot projects that are ideally suited for biomass conversion.  The outline gives the example of state agencies located at the Ray Brook facility in the Adirondacks, which are working together to design a biomass boiler system for heating the campus.

In addition, Renewable Heat NY will challenge communities to develop clustered approaches for sustainable biomass heating markets, through a competitive grant program.  Through Cuomo’s $800 million BuildSmart NY initiative, the New York Power Authority will be able to finance all up-front costs for advanced biomass heating systems in state and municipal buildings and will coordinate with NYSERDA to ensure that biomass heating projects can take advantage of all available financing and technical assistance from the state.

Renewable Heat NY will also aim to develop long-term, reasonably priced private sector financing to cover the up-front cost of qualified biomass heating systems for buildings outside of the municipal sector, and the state will provide support so that sustainable forestry practices are available for small and large landowners and are utilized to maintain and enhance the long-term health and productivity of New York’s forests.

Also in Como’s agenda is a plan to work toward modernizing New York’s outdated power grid infrastructure, via the launch of a $40 million competition to help build “community grids” for areas with approximately 40,000 residents each. These standalone grids would be capable of maintaining electricity and heat during storm and emergencies, operating as “energy islands.”

"Renewable Heat NY will give the biomass heating sector a much needed boost, while at the same time spurring local economic activity and offering New Yorkers real savings and security,” said Charlie Niebling, president of the New York Biomass Energy Alliance. “Seventy-eight cents of every dollar spent on heating oil leaves the state; with biomass heating, fuel dollars remain in the state, recirculating in local and regional economies."