On Wednesday night, the ACORN Energy Co-op held an official launch meeting at the Ilsley Public Library in Middlebury. Members of the new co-op, which grew out of the Middlebury-based umbrella group Addison County Relocalization Network (ACORN), plan to facilitate the annual production, marketing and distribution of 10,000 tons of wood pellets.
Greg Pahl, the co-op's interim board president (pictured), tells Seven Days that the pellets should power roughly 2000 homes in Addison, Rutland and Chittenden Counties. They will be produced by the North Clarendon-based Vermont Wood Pellet Co. and distributed by Bourdeau Brothers, an agricultural supplier that operates in Middlebury, Sheldon and New York York State. If local demand for wood pellets grows, Pahl predicts, a second wood-pellet mill might be built in Middlebury..
Are wood pellets cheaper than heating oil? "It's a little hard to make a comparison right now," says Pahl, an author who writes about renewable energy. "But at the moment, I'd say that anybody who's considering heating with pellets would still save money on their fuel costs." He speaks from experience: Pahl's $10,000 wood-pellet burner paid for itself in 4 years. (For information about wood pellets, see ACORN's online resource page.)
The co-op's official launch is the latest chapter in a multi-year process. When I visited Pahl at his Middlebury home two years ago, he was applying for a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant. Since that application was denied, he explains, it took a little longer than he would have liked to set up the co-op. (Last year, the co-op distributed just 66 tons of pellets last year, and they came from Georgia.)
What future projects do members of the ACORN Renewable Energy Co-op have in mind? Pahl mentions wind power, liquid biofuels, solar hot water heaters and photovoltaic arrays, home energy surveys and micro hydro as possibilities. "This is unquestionably a step in the right direction," he says of the wood-pellet project. "But there's still an awful lot that needs to be done in Addison County and the entire state, to say nothing of the nation."
To place a wood pellet order, or for more information about the new ACORN Energy Co-op, call 385-1911, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit acornenergycoop.com.
Still curious about renewable energy? Consider attending the 2009 Addison County Green Energy Expo. The event takes place this Saturday, March 21, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the Middlebury Union High School. $2 for adults, $1 for children and $5 for families. Info, 388-7951 or email@example.com.