Tag Archives: Wood Energy

Clean air and the cost of freedom

From Alaska Dispatch, Wednesday, October 20, 2010:

The people of Fairbanks spoke loudly and clearly at the polls this year: They didn’t want government dictating to them what could come out of the smokestacks atop their homes.

Enforcing standards for clean-air for everyone, voters decided, reeked of socialism — that policy of ensuring the needs of the many trump the desire of the individual. It is not a popular political philosophy in these tea-party days, especially in Alaska where it has never been a very popular philosophy.

Fairbanks is, after all, the home of the late Joe Vogler, founder of the Alaskan Independence Party, who thought the whole of America too socialist almost 40 years ago when the federal bureaucracy was but a shadow of what it is today. So it came as no big surprise when Fairbanks voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative blocking a North Star Borough plan to fine people for polluting the air with woodsmoke.

Unfortunately, the end result of that vote is that people are likely to pollute the air with woodsmoke again this winter and borough officials are having a devil of a time trying to figure out what to do about it.

Continue reading: Clean air and the cost of freedom

Parents ask school board to address air pollution at Woodriver

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Wednesday, October 20, 2010:

Several parents, teachers and other school staff members testified before the Fairbanks school board Tuesday to ask that the school district deal with air pollution, especially outside and inside  Woodriver Elementary School.

Some said that the district needs to install air filters in the school because the smoke from two outdoor wood boilers close to the school is bad enough to create a cloud in the halls on many days. There have been dozens of complaints each of the past two winters to the borough because of the Woodriver smoke and on some days recess is canceled.

There were also concerns voiced about air quality in North Pole and in other parts of Fairbanks, such as near Randy Smith Middle School.

Other parents and grandparents said that the state Department of Environmental Conservation should be called upon to enforce state regulations to limit air pollution.

Continue reading: Parents ask school board to address air pollution at Woodriver

Borough tries to reconcile ballot measure, Fairbanks air pollution rules

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Saturday, October 15, 2010:

The borough halted enforcement of new air quality rules — none had taken place yet anyway — and officials await a legal opinion about other aspects of the air quality program, which was diluted by the voters last week.

“There are a number of things that are going to have to change,” air quality director Glenn Miller said. “There will be an ordinance that will come forward in the near future that will address these changes.”

The vote approving Proposition A effectively ended rules about the types of wood stoves that can be installed in the borough and threw out fines that applied to smoke emissions and the burning of certain items, including tires, chemicals and animal carcasses.

Fairbanks voters reject home heating fines for wood smoke

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Wednesday, October 6, 2010:

Anyone worried about getting slapped with a home-heating fine can sleep a little easier.

Voters on Tuesday blocked the ability of Fairbanks North Star Borough managers to rely partly on fines as they implement a new pollution-prevention program.

Questions remain, however, over whether the ballot measure will clear state laws and exactly how the result — 60 percent of voters approved the measure — will take shape at the assembly’s desk.

Studies suggest Fairbanks’ chronic air pollution is due largely to older or less-efficient wood-fed home heating systems. The pollution-control program, approved narrowly by the Borough Assembly this summer, includes carrots and sticks: Incentives, including tax breaks, for trading up to more efficient systems and potential fines for the worst polluters.

Tuesday’s measure, born as a public initiative, directs local government to drop the second avenue, leaving incentives and public education plans in place. It does not, however, directly change local laws, leaving Mayor Luke Hopkins and the nine-member assembly the task of applying the mandate. 

Burning wood? Don’t go green then


By CCHRC Staff

The “Ask a Builder” series is dedicated to answering some of the questions Fairbanks residents have about building, energy and the many other parts of home life.

Q: Does it matter what type of wood I burn in my woodstove?

Most species of local wood are suitable for burning in a stove but do not burn wood that has been treated or painted. Regardless of the species, the best wood to use has been properly seasoned and stored. Wood that is fresh, or “green,” contains higher amounts of moisture, which will bring down a stove’s efficiency and cause excessive particulates and creosote buildup inside a chimney.

On a related point, only burn paper in your stove when starting a fire. Too much paper has the potential to produce a fire that is more than a stove or chimney can handle. Burning coal in a wood stove will have the same effect; so do not burn coal unless the stove is rated for it. Overall, avoid burning large amounts of paper or other combustibles that can significantly raise the stack temperature or cause the stove to burn hotter than it is designed to.

Q: I am thinking of installing solar panels on my home or property. What things do I need to think about before I begin?

There are a number of things to take into consideration when looking into a solar power system. First are the cost of electricity and financial incentives. A solar photovoltaic system has a large upfront cost but will provide savings over many years and will eventually pay itself off. Installing a large solar power system and selling the home a few years later will not provide enough time to pay back the investment. However, even pinning down exact numbers for payback can be a challenge since the cost of fuel and electricity both fluctuate. The federal government also provides tax incentives for solar panels and solar thermal systems.

More information can be found at www.energystar.gov. Golden Valley Electric Association’s SNAP program provides incentives as well.

More information on SNAP is available at www.gvea.com/ energyprograms/snap/.

Another challenge is location. Property on the north side of a hill will not collect as much light as a south-facing exposure. Also look at the amount of direct sunlight on a solar panel throughout the day. Shade from trees and other objects will lower the amount of power you make.

Consider the amount of maintenance that goes into a solar power system. Snow and leaves fall on solar arrays and should be cleaned off.

The amount debris can be limited by tilting panels to 49 degrees in the non-snowy months and 90 degrees in other months, which will also help capture more light from the sun’s low angle.

Contact a professional for further information and tips before getting started with an installation.

Alaska HomeWise articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC). If you have a question, e-mail us at akhomewise@cchrc.org.You can also call the CCHRC at (907) 457-3454.

Dry wood is good wood

From The Alaska Science Forum, Sunday, August 15, 2010:

A friend says that among his most satisfying moments are those he stands contemplating his pile of firewood. He inhales the sweetness of birch, the tang of aspen and the sharp bite of spruce while he ponders the moisture wafting out of his wood.

My friend knows how to have a good time. And he is appreciating a process that is important in places where people burn wood and release its smoke into an air column that doesn’t stir much in winter — burned dry wood results in much better air quality than wetter wood.

“I think it’s a big issue,” said John Davies, a longtime woodburner and senior researcher for energy policy at the Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks. Researchers at the center recently collected firewood from people in Fairbanks to check it for moisture content, and are also measuring the drying progress of cordwood they have stacked on the grounds of the center in Fairbanks. Fairbanks often exceeds Environmental Protection Agency air quality standards. Its poor winter air quality is due in a large part to the emissions from wood smoke. People make the problem worse when burning unseasoned wood.

Continue reading: Dry wood is good wood

Fairbanks borough begins its wood stove trade-in program

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Monday, August 2, 2010:

The borough began taking applications last week for its wood stove repair and replacement program.

“The program is up and operational,” air quality director Glenn Miller said.

Applications are available at the borough air quality office on Peger Road.

The program is still evolving, and applications won’t be available on the borough website until final modifications are made, Miller said.

Qualifying residents will receive government assistance replacing outdoor wood boilers and old wood stoves for cleaner-burning models approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. Cash payouts and tax credits are available to those who switch to gas or oil heat.

The program is part of a larger endeavor to improve the air in Fairbanks.

Study finds more Fairbanks borough homes keep warm by burning wood than in 2006

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Tuesday, July 13, 2010:

The number of people who heat with wood in the Fairbanks North Star Borough is slowly rising, a new study shows.

Researchers called 300 area households last winter and asked a series of questions, mostly regarding home heating habits.

They found the number of borough households using wood heat has gone up about 7 percent since 2006.

A breakdown by area shows wood heat is more popular in North Pole than any other ZIP code.

Borough administrators are using the survey results to help decide where to steer funding for a wood stove replacement program. Future studies will be used to gauge whether the local air pollution control program is working.

Continue reading: Study finds more Fairbanks borough homes keep warm by burning wood than in 2006

Fairbanks wood stove ballot question approved

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Saturday, July 10, 2010:

A ballot group succeeded in gaining the signatures to put a question to the Fairbanks area voters that, if approved, would reverse new air pollution regulations.

A Fairbanks North Star Borough canvassing board approved the signatures last week.

The question about whether the borough should be allowed to regulate home heating devices will appear on the Oct. 5 ballot, according to borough officials and a member of the ballot measure group. The group needed 2,379 signatures.

Rick VanderKolk, treasurer of the North Star Landowners, said the ballot measure group is raising money to publicize the measure, dubbed The Home Heating Protection Act.

If approved by the voters, the act states that “the borough shall not ban, prohibit or fine residents for the use of home heating devices.” It effectively reverses air pollution regulations passed last month and aimed at dense chimney smoke that puts out a harmful pollutant known as PM 2.5. The federal government has put the borough on notice to reduce levels of PM 2.5.

The ballot measure group is backed by Rep. Tammy Wilson, R-North Pole; businessman Craig Compeau; radio personality Michael Dukes and others.

Interior Alaska group can challenge wood stove regulations

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Saturday, June 26, 2010:

A local group opposed to a new borough ordinance that regulates the sale, installation and use of wood and coal stoves, has gathered enough signatures to challenge the ordinance.

North Star Landowners, sponsors of The Home Heating Protection Act, gathered more than 3,000 signatures for the petition, according to group treasurer Rick VanderKolk. A total of 2,379 qualified signatures are required before the initiative can be added to the October election ballot.

The petition books have been submitted to the Fairbanks North Star Borough municipal clerk’s office and will be reviewed next week.

“The signatures were collected rapidly. I hope this sends the Borough the clear message that air quality problems are isolated, not pervasive,” Rep. Tammie Wilson stated in an e-mail. Wilson is one of the initiative’s sponsors.

The borough ordinance, which also restricts chimney smoke emissions in an attempt to lower levels of a fine particulate pollution known as PM 2.5., was adopted June 10.