It was sorrow that compelled Rosalie Bianco to act.
“I was in Grand County a couple of years ago,” she recalls. “It was breaking my heart to see all the trees dying from pine beetle infestation, and then watching all the dead trees logged and burnt, releasing all that C0 [carbon dioxide] in the air.” Bianco, a Boulder real estate agent on sabbatical, shared her concerns with friend Jeanne Scholl, then a conservation manager for Boulder County Parks and Open Space.
“We agreed there had to be some way to use that timber. I had this crazy idea that maybe it could be turned into pellets for stoves. Neither one of us knew anything about pellet stoves, but we figured if you were going to burn that wood and release that C0 , at least it wouldn’t be wasted.”
The dead trees, Bianco learned, were free for the taking, although the pickup at forest collection sites in Colorado and delivery by logging trucks to a mill wouldn’t be cheap.
She traveled to 10 mills around the country, sought out the top three pellet-machine manufacturers, and discussed the challenges with engineers. In the end, a more energy-efficient machine was invented to replace the usual furnace-processing of trees.
According to the Pellet Fuels Institute, pellets are a cheaper, more carbon-neutral heating source than gas, oil, electricity or coal. In bulk, they’re more space-efficient than a wood pile, and leave only a small amount of compostable ash.
It took almost $3 million to launch New Earth Pellets — funded by personal savings and the investment of friends and kin who shared Bianco’s passion for the environment.
The tiny town of Silver Plume welcomed the new commercial mill’s 25 full-time jobs. New Earth Pellets recently opened a retail store and distribution center in Lakewood, where pellets and a variety of pellet stoves are sold, from fireplace conversion kits to free-standing units.
New Earth Pellets provides fuel, stoves, installation, instruction and the option of regular pellet delivery. Bianco says the company will also sell pellet-fueled furnaces and boilers starting in September.
It may seem ludicrous in August to be thinking about pellet stoves to augment or replace your current home heating system, but given that there may be a federal energy tax credit (up to $1,500) expiring at the end of the year, it’s not too soon to be thinking of such a purchase.
Also, the store is currently offering zero down with 100 percent financing on the purchase of a new stove, plus up to three tons of free pellets.
Bianco says she can use her EPA-approved stove even on “no burn” days, and that her own Boulder home costs 275 percent more to heat with electricity than with her New Earth pellets, and 45 percent more to heat with propane.
You can figure out your own probable energy savings with an online calculator provided by the Pellet Fuels Institute, www.pelletheat.org.
More information is available at www.newearthpellets.com.
New Earth Pellets is located at 950 Simms St., Lakewood, and can be reached by calling 970-GO-GREEN.
CORRECTION: An Aug. 19 Boulderganic article, “Loving to grow,” incorrectly listed the contact information for the I Love to Grow nursery. The website is www.ilovetogrow.com, and the phone number is 303-736-9508.*