Oroville will participate in pellet stove program

OROVILLE – Oroville will participate in a program that’s goal is to put energy efficient pellet stoves in local homes and businesses while bringing jobs by turning salvaged wood products into pellet fuel.

Mayor Chuck Spieth met with representatives of the Energy Efficiency Block Grant Program, according to Chris Branch, Oroville’s director of Planning and Economic Development. The plan is to work with Atlas Pellets, a local manufacturer of wood pellets located between Riverside and Omak.

“Several communities in the county are considering joining up with the program,” said Branch. “The City of Tonasket has already become a partner.”

Branch said part of the program will involve a revolving loan fund to help businesses and residents switch from less efficient heating equipment like wood stoves and electric heaters to more efficient pellet stoves. As proposed, the project would fund the purchase of 800 pellet stoves.

The improvements made by this project will allow Atlas Pellets to produce an additional 24,000 tons of pellets a year, according to the grant application.

“There are three key elements to the plan, major expansion of Atlas Pellets, increase jobs in the wood products industry and more recovery of bio-mass and getting more efficient pellet stoves into homes and businesses,” Branch said. “Atlas Pellets has proposed to contribute $300,000.”

Oroville’s role would be as a co-applicant, like Tonasket, according to Branch.

“Our commitment would just be as a participant… there would be a small amount of money paid to Oroville to pay for participation,” he said.

“My feeling is this would institute kind of a cash for clunkers program… less efficient heating sources for more efficient ones,” said Branch.

Tonasket has already agreed to be lead agency in the project. The City of Omak can’t participate due to its proximity to the mill.

Branch said the program projects four temporary construction jobs in 2009 and 2010, twelve permanent forestry jobs and three permanent truck driving jobs. Jobs will be generated and retained in five categories: mill work, plant construction, foresters and timber workers, project management and research consultants, according to Branch.

Reading from the grant proposal, Branch said, “If this project is funded 13 permanent jobs at the mill would be retained and nine permanent jobs added, for a total of 22 permanent jobs through and beyond 2012.”

He added, “Potentially the program could include other producers. Most people think that biomass energy will be a big piece of the energy puzzle in the future. Much of it could come from forest wood waste, salvage.”

The program would offer only the highest efficiency pellet stoves, designed outside of our country, but with a provision that the stoves be made inside the country, he said.

“It’s not a done deal right now, they’ll refine the proposal at a later time. I think we should move forward with this… I think it could be a benefit to the city,” said Mayor Spieth.

According to a written overview of the grant, “This project proposes to initiate a key element in the Okanogan Bioenergy from Wood Partnership: a Revolving Fund to support the purchase and distribution of high efficiency pellet burning stoves to consumers in Okanogan County. This Fund is sponsored by local governments in the county, Atlas Pellets-a major local enterprise and the Institute for Washington’s Future, the coordinator of the Partnership. This Fund will allow the participating local consumers to lease or purchase high performing wood pellet stoves though local distributors on a ‘pay as you go’ basis, saving them both the up front cost of purchasing such a stove as well as reducing the price. This will allow them to capture the significant cost savings possible through the use of locally produced wood pellets, making the switch to this renewable energy economically as well as environmentally attractive.”