April 6, 2018

In This Week's Pellet Wire:

Operation 100k by the Numbers

On Tuesday our Promotions & Communications committee had its monthly conference call. During the call, we were discussing the best path forward for PFI to engage and work with our hearth and home retail partners. During this discussion, one of our members asked a very straightforward question. How many hearth and home retailers are there in the United States? I had no idea. I love questions that expose soft spots in my understanding of things and I scrambled for a resource I thought might have the answer.

One of my first conversations as the Executive Director of PFI was with Richard Wright, the Publisher, and Editor of Hearth & Home magazine. After our conversation, Richard signed me up for a complimentary subscription to the title and generously sent me the June 2017 issue, which is loaded with industry information including the answer to this particular committee member's question.

According to Hearth & Home, there are 3,107 hearth specialty retailers in the United States. Satisfied, I continued perusing the robust data, which I think is important to study and consider as we move forward into our efforts with Operation 100k. If we are to reestablish 100,000 units as the annual floor for wood pellet appliance sales, a thorough understanding of hearth retailers and the role pellet appliances play in their business is critical.

First, it is important to remember that not every hearth retailer carries pellet appliances. In fact, according to the Buyer's Guide, only 59% of those 3,107 retailers carry pellet stoves (roughly 1,850). The simple math then tells us that to reach 100,000 appliances, each retailer selling pellet appliances needs to sell 55 each year.

That statistic also begs the question of why 41% of hearth retailers DO NOT sell pellet appliances and I think this is a question the PFI needs to ask. It stands to reason that more retailers selling pellet appliances would lead to more pellet appliances sold. Is that an endeavor that PFI could take on and have some success in? Are our efforts better spent helping those retailers who do sell pellet appliances sell more?

I think its also interesting to apply these same numbers to what we understand about 2017 pellet appliance sales. Numbers were recently shared with us that suggest pellet appliance sales last year came in around 49,000 - meaning the average number of units sold across the 1,850 retailers last year was right around 26. Simply put, to achieve Operation 100k every hearth retailer selling pellet appliances will need to double their pellet appliance sales. When stated that way, the task seems daunting. Still, I think it is important to fully understand what our stated goals really mean.

What is exciting to me and I hope feels exciting to everyone else is that our interests and the interests of our retail partners are aligned. In fact, before our producer members experience increased market demand, our upstream hearth partners will experience increased market demand and I think this is a message that will resonate with retailers and excite them about our efforts.

I urge you to spend some time with Hearth & Home's Buyers Guide data. An online version can be found on their website. Each time I review the data, I find myself asking questions. I suspect you will too. I urge you to share your ideas and questions with me. A strategy and a pathway forward to 100,000 lie within this data set and the questions they force us to ask ourselves.

Only 12 Weeks Till the PFI Annual Conference in Myrtle Beach! 

It's not too early to register for the PFI Annual Conference taking place in Myrtle Beach, June 24-26! The conference is earlier in the summer than in years past, and half of the hotel rooms are already reserved, so don't let it sneak up on you.

The PFI Annual Conference highlights the various applications of densified biomass, as well as trends and best practices within the densified biomass industry. It attracts a broad range of individuals from the public and private sectors, academia, and local, state and national governments from North America and beyond. The conference features two days of educational sessions as well as industry exhibits, extensive networking opportunities, and a golf tournament. The golf tournament is a great way to experience some friendly competition with your friends and colleagues in the industry while playing on a top-notch course.  

The agenda, previewed by Tim Portz in Nashville and here in Pellet Wire, is shaping up nicely. See the panels and information sessions we have in store on the PFI website

Massachusetts 2018 Wood Stove Change-out Program Offers Up to $1,750 Rebates for New Pellet Stoves

Do you sell product in New England? If so, you might want to tip off appliance retailers you work with that their customers may be eligible for rebates of up to $1,750 from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts!

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker last week announced that the program will be funded for 2018 to the tune of $450,000, to be awarded to homeowners who replace their older stove models with new, EPA-certified wood or pellet stoves. 

Please visit the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center for more information on the 2018 Wood Stove Change-out Program. Please also see the article in the right-hand column. 

Send Us Photos

We're building a collection of photos of our members, their pellets mills and product. Send them to Carrie Annand at [email protected]. Thanks to Cory Schrock with Fiber By-Products for the above photo.

Become a 2018 PFI Sponsor in April

Don't miss the opportunity to sponsor PFI early in 2018! Sponsorship at all levels brings many perks, along with exposure for your company to the pellet fuels industry. By signing up to sponsor the association early in 2018, you will reap the benefits throughout the coming year.

The 2018 sponsorship packages include benefits such as:

  • PFI Annual Conference registrations
  • Company logo listed on the PFI website
  • 10x10 booth at the PFI Annual Conference
  • Weekly newsletter advertising
  • Website advertising
  • And more!

PFI's membership list includes more than 100 companies, and the Pellet Wire, our electronic newsletter, is sent to close to 2,000 subscribers every week. Now is the time to become a sponsor of this organization. Visit our website to explore how you can become involved.

We Need Your Input for PFI's 2018 Events

Are there any topics that you'd like to see addressed at PFI's Annual Conference in June? We'd like to hear from you. Nominate speakers, suggest panels, experts, themes and ideas. The Conference Committee wants to be sure to reflect the preferences and needs of PFI membership as much as possible.

Be sure to check our updated online calendar with information on many events happening during 2018. Most important, mark your calendars for next year's PFI events! 

If our calendar is missing any events that you're planning to attend, please send an email to Carrie

Follow PFI on Twitter, Friend Us on Facebook, and Connect with Us on LinkedIn 

We'd like to connect and interact with PFI members and anyone else involved in pellet fuels production! 

Here's how you can help us build our online community:

  1. Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook!
  2. Encourage your colleagues and other business associates to follow us.
  3. Send Carrie Annand news or other ideas to post on LinkedIn.

Do You Have News to Share on Pellet Wire?

We'd love to feature your company's news in a future Pellet Wire! We want to be the first to know your company's recent developments to share them with the wider pellet fuels industry.

Please be in touch with Carrie Annand with information on your company's growth, job openings, promotions, or other news. 

Join a PFI Committee

We welcome and encourage all interested PFI members to get involved in our committees. There are many opportunities to help steer the association. No matter where your expertise and interests lie, we have a committee that will suit you. Help us plan our next conference, shape our policy agenda, lead communications outreach, or grow the PFI Standards Program. Visit PFI's website for more information. 

Upcoming Industry Events

April 16, 2018: International Biomass Conference & Expo

May 1, 2018: Heating the Midwest

June 24 - 26, 2018: PFI Annual Conference 

Connect with PFI

Join PFI

Fuel Availability

Are you a PFI member, pellet manufacturer, or distributor that has fuel available? Email [email protected] to have your listing updated or added to the PFI website.

Industry News

SugarMaker Finds Sweet Spot With Wood Pellet Evaporator
Vermont Biz

The sap is flowing all over Vermont this month and sugarmakers are firing up their evaporators to create that liquid gold, maple syrup. Evaporators have historically been fired with cordwood, or more recently oil or propane. One sugarhouse though has found the sweet spot of convenience and tradition, a wood pellet fired evaporator. Republic of Vermont is a certified organic sugarhouse and treatment-free apiary located in Goshen.

They have over 4,000 taps and until this year, they were firing their evaporator with cords of wood that sugarmaker Ethan West would harvest and process himself every summer, in addition to caring for the bees. With the growing summertime demands of an expanding apiary however, the time and effort he was putting into processing firewood no longer made sense. Plus, it's just not what he's best at: "I'm a sugarmaker, not a logger," West said. "Sure, I can operate a chain saw, but there's no way I was cutting trees as safely or effectively as the professionals." He started looking into alternatives.

Buying in firewood from local dealers was one option, but that still seemed a bit cumbersome. Oil and propane weren't on the table: "I like to support the local forest products industry," he said. Then he heard about wood pellet fired evaporators being used in Canada. "With Vermont Wood Pellet right down the road in Clarendon, this felt like a no-brainer. We could have all of the convenience of oil, but still run our operation with fuel produced practically next door."

Read Full Article

Jaffrey Wood Pellet Plant Bought out by Industry Leader 
Sentinel Source, New Hampshire

One wood pellet manufacturer purchased another in February, which included a local facility.

Lignetics Inc., the largest residential wood pellet manufacturing company in the country, bought out New England Wood Pellets on Feb. 14. The sale included the flagship facility in Jaffrey, along with plants in New York and Pennsylvania.

Mitch Lehn, director of human resources, said the transition will bring little change at the local level. He said no layoffs or terminations occurred as a result of the acquisition.

"Our philosophy is to, for our businesses that are similar in our core business, let them run their business as they usually do," Lehn said.

With this latest acquisition, Lignetics now makes about 1 million tons of wood pellets each year across nine states.

Read Full Article

World's First Coal to Biomass Conversion Using Advanced Wood Pellets 
Canadian Biomass

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has been actively evaluating the use of biomass to decarbonize the production from its coal fired assets for some time. In recent years, this focus has shifted to the testing of second generation wood pellets to prove the ability to employ these new fuels safely and effectively within an existing coal fired unit. OPG has recently executed a project to convert Thunder Bay Unit 3 from coal to 100 percent biomass firing using steam exploded wood pellets.

In February 2015, this unit entered service on the new fuel, making it the first such unit worldwide to employ thermally upgraded wood pellets. The unique properties of the steam exploded pellets enable the use of outdoor storage and handling, similar to the baseline coal firing case. The ability to store, handle, pulverize and combust the pellets with only minor modifications to the plant systems and procedures has enabled the use of a low capital cost project approach that is not possible with conversions that employ traditional white wood pellets.

The conversion of Thunder Bay Unit 3 was executed with a capital cost of approximately $30/kW and has demonstrated the feasibility of this approach at full scale. Observations from the fuel evaluations, test burns and commissioning of this first-of-a-kind project are discussed.

Read Full Article

Pellet Fuels Institute

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