Wood pellet producers ramp up production as demand grows

5:48 PM, Mar 12, 2014   |    comments
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STRONG, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Despite reports of folks having a difficult time finding enough wood pellets to heat their homes, Maine's wood pellet producers say the issues have more to do with distribution than production.

At the Geneva Wood Fuels Mill in Strong, wood pellets are in production morning, noon and night.

"People are starting to embrace it a lot more," stated Jeff Allen, the plant manager.  "It's been steady.  Very, very steady."

Logs are brought to the mill and stripped of bark to help reduce the amount of ash created when the pellets are burned.  Then they are ground into chips and processed.

The wood chips are dried in a massive dryer before winding their way into machines that press them into pellets.

"Maine makes a lot of pellets," said Jonathan Kahn, president of Geneva Wood Fuels.  "There is no supply shortage."

Kahn says the issues this winter have been logistical in nature, with people not being prepared for the harsh weather and brutal cold by having more supplies on hand.  He says they are working with distributors to ensure they have enough pellets on hand for customers.

Twenty-two people work at the mill, with dozens more helping cut and supply the wood to make the pellets.  

The mill has gone from producing 13,000 tons of pellets a year to more than 60,000 tons this year.  Kahn estimates they could ramp up production even more in the future as demand continues to grow.

Kahn says the a major barrier between increased production is an increase in homes using pellets as their heat source.

NEWS CENTER

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