Matt L. Barron: Wood is good

Published: 04-07-2023 3:26 PM

Kudos to Gazette reporter Alexander MacDougall for his excellent March 21 article on modern wood heating [“A place for wood in state’s green future”]. It is refreshing to read about something other than electric cars and solar panels. Regrettably, the fuel that propels our heat pumps and EVs is simply not that green. As I write (on a sunny day) there is only 11% renewables in the grid … one-third of which is from burning trash. Shockingly, Massachusetts’ five industrial incinerators burn ~7-10,000 tons of trash per day … all of which earns “renewable,” waste to energy credits.

For our commonwealth to meet its ambitious 2050 decarbonization goals under the Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan, modern wood heating must be part of the equation, especially for rural communities; we need all technologies, not just the flavor of the month. Remember, Gov. Maura Healey has called for the deployment of 1GW of solar, per year. This equals 5,000 acres of new solar per year. We can do better.

The New Hingham Elementary School in Chesterfield is a prime candidate to have its failing oil boiler replaced with one that is efficiently/renewably/cleanly fueled by wood chips or pellets. This would save the school district (taxpayers in Chesterfield and Goshen) more than $15,000/yr. and eliminate more than 86 tons of annual CO2 emissions. As both towns are designated Green Communities the state would pay the entire cost of this conversion. Installing a geothermal system would cost the commonwealth $500,000 — more than a clean wood system like what currently heat both Ashfield and Charlemont’s elementary schools. It’s your money.

Arguments about adverse air quality from these state-of-the-art wood heating systems are bogus and intended to scare us. University of Massachusetts Amherst found that particulate emissions from commercial wood pellet boilers (including Ashfied and Charlemont) were not significantly greater than from conventional boilers. Further research is being conducted to determine the toxicity of these emissions. Emissions from modern wood heating systems (given a clean bill of health in Europe) are projected to be deemed irritants, a stark contrast to fossil fuel emissions which are known to be carcinogenic.

We must use common sense to combat climate change. Wood is good.

Matt L. Barron



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