Grants help maple syrup makers install pellet, wood chip systems

By Erin Voegele | July 11, 2017

In Vermont, The Clean Energy Development Fund at the state’s Public Service Department is offering grant funding to help sugar makers install evaporators fueled with wood pellets or wood chips.

The program opened on a first-come, first-serve basis on June 30. It provides cash grants to Vermont-based sugar makers based on the size of evaporators installed. According to the Public Service Department, the incentive is being offered as a rebate on the purchase and installation of new pellet or wood chip-fired evaporators. The rebate is for $200 per square feet of evaporator pan, up to a maximum of $20,000, or 50 percent of total installed cost, whichever is less.

Eligible systems must completely replace oil, propane, or cord wood-fired units, and the installed unit must be the sole source of maple syrup production. The incentive is available for existing sugar operations only.

According to application materials, pellet and wood chips systems must include bulk fuel storage capacity, automated fuel feed from a bulk storage container or area to the burn chamber, and automated on/off fuel feed control based on demand for heat. Bulk fuel storage systems must be able to receive automated bulk delivery of pellets or chips.

“Vermont has a rich history of using wood in our sugar houses, and this incentive builds on that history providing our larger sugar makers a way to still use wood but with the ease of an automatic system,” said Governor Phil Scott. “This is an example of my administration continuing to focus on ways that we can build our local economy while also increasing the use of clean energy.”

"We currently have incentives to encourage Vermonter’s to switch to local pellets for heating, but we heard from maple syrup producers that such incentives couldn’t be applied to evaporators, so we created this separate incentive just for sap evaporators,” said Andrew Perchlik, director of the CEDF. Perchlik continued that the CEDF is focused on building demand for local pellets because “we see tremendous economic growth potential in the bulk pellet and woodchip heating sector, directly connected with the automated heating systems but also in support of the forest products sector that is vital to Vermont.”

Commenting on the new incentive Public Service Department Commissioner June Tierney said, “I’m pleased to see our Clean Energy Development Fund finding creative ways to support Vermont’s maple businesses to reduce fossil fuel use with a local low-cost clean energy source.”

The PSD’s Clean Energy Development Fund will administer the program through the state’s Small Scale Renewable Energy Incentive Program with the help of the Renewable Energy Resource Center. Additional information on the program can be found on the Public Service Department’s website.