Energy Goal 1: increase the local generation and distribution of renewable energy
Barriers The development of biomass for fuel in the North Country, and indeed within the Northeastern U.S., is hampered by a lack of specific regional policies targeting the growth of thermal renewable energy, and biomass thermal energy in particular (BTEC et al 2010). Thermal energy is not currently a focus of regional or state energy policies, no specific goals have been identified for increasing its implementation (BTEC et al 2010), and a comprehensive public education campaign has not been developed. And as more biomass is harvested, it is also imperative that forests in the region be managed sustainably, preserving their unique capacities to protect watersheds and sequester carbon. To address these challenges, policy planning needs to be continued and expanded at the national and regional levels to develop and implement an effective vision for thermal biomass energy (BTEC et al 2010).This could be supported by a public education campaign. At the local level, a range of policies could support the thermal biomass sector, including amendments to local procurement policies to encourage the use of biomass heating in public buildings, the creation of a stove and fuel oil burner replacement program to assist residents with replacement of old, inefficient wood stoves and gas and oil heating systems, and the implementation of a renewable heat standard similar to the stateâ€™s Renewable Portfolio Standard for electric power.
The biomass energy market is growing slowly in the region. Although it has significant environmental and economic benefits, expanding the residential biomass energy market will be challenging. Many households already use wood to provide primary and secondary heat, and may not see the value of an investment in high-efficiency, low-emission furnaces capable of reliably and efficiently burning biomass fuels. The region would require an expansion of private sector businesses that manufacture and distribute bulk materials and provide regular residential delivery. Appropriate residential systems are available but are not well-known. These systems can have high initial capital costs; thus, widespread adoption would require a subsidy or incentive/offset program. The Northern Forest Center is one organization evaluating the feasibility of engaging the Town of Tupper Lake in the creation of a cluster of 40 residential conversions to determine the economic, social, and environmental impact of widespread residential adoption. Low- and moderate-income residents and those in housing built 30 or more years ago are likely to be in particular need of such support. The Town of Indian Lake is also exploring the potential to develop a biomass heating district that would include the school and municipal and commercial buildings. In addition, and due to the potential for unintended environmental harm caused by swift increase in regional biomass heating systems, proposed biomass projects should undergo emissions analyses prior to implementation. Emissions of GHGâ€™s, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and other HAPs should be evaluated for their potential environmental impacts. A best practices guide for high-efficiency, low-emissions biomass heating will be available on NYSERDAâ€™s website by mid-2013, and can be used to guide the planning and implementation of new biomass installations in the region.
North Country Region Sustainability Plan