Biomass heating programs, incentives featured at conference

By Chris Hanson | May 01, 2014

Three biomass heating programs were showcased during an evening session at 2014 Heating the Midwest with Renewable Biomass Conference and Expo in Green Bay, Wis.

Wisconsin’s Woodstove Exchange Program is currently active in 15 counties and was first on the presentation list. The exchange program is a partnership of the American Lung Association and Wisconsin Public Service and offers rebates for people to replace older heating appliances with newer, U.S. EPA approved units.

In order to qualify for the rebate, the old wood-burning stove needs to be the primary source of heat and non-EPA certified. Once qualified, the user can receive a general incentive rebate ranging from $1,000 to $4,000 for a new heating appliance. Qualified pellet stove replacements receive up to $1,500 in general incentives, explained Dona Wininsky, director of public policy and communication for the American Lung Association of Wisconsin. By replacing older models with higher efficient appliances, the ALA aimed to help reduce some of the harmful particulate pollution that can cause negative health effects, she added.

Lower-income families, which are participating in assistance programs such as the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program, can take greater advantage of the program’s Income Qualified Incentive, which offers additional rebates. In this category, a new pellet stove replacement could be eligible up to a $3,000 rebate. “The goal is to come close to full replacement cost,” Wininsky said.

The next two programs aimed at helping project decision makers quickly move through the pre-feasibility study stage for deciding whether to implement a wood energy project, explained Dennis Becker, associate professor at the University of Minnesota. The two programs were first announced on April 22 and included an interactive book and financial application. The interactive book which offered guidance, personal stories and product options to help educate about common challenges and matching resources to applicable technologies and investments.

The Wood Energy Financial App allowed decision makers to explore a preliminary financial assessment of a possible wood energy project. The program works similar to other personal financial software and allowed users to generate a preliminary estimate on annual fuel savings and project paybacks. The program’s customization allowed users to explore the potential, what-if scenarios or to get an estimate of what a practical system may look like. “We can dispense ideas that don’t make sense and focus on those that do,” Becker said.