Photo : Wood smoke from a state-of-the-art wood pellet boiler, at the John Olver Transportation Center, Greenfield, MA
"Health Considerations:. Some communities in NYS experience very high concentrations of wood smoke comprised of fine particulate matter and CO." and
"pellet boilers must be designed to minimize the potential for adverse health and safety effects. If the installation will be near sensitive populations (e.g. schools, hospitals, nursing facilities) an evaluation of the potential health and environmental effects must be performed. This evaluation should include a comparison of potential pellet boiler emissions and thermal efficiencies to displaced fuels systems (e.g., oil, propane gas, etc.)
School Children – a Unique Population
Other states have focused their biomass heating programs on schools because they are large energy users and face ever increasing budget constraints. However, children comprise a population uniquely susceptible to air pollution.
According to the 2009 NYS Asthma Surveillance Report, 11% of children (ages 0–17) have asthma, which exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is known to exacerbate. .. In selecting school heating technologies, it is essential to avoid installing systems that emit more PM2.5 and other pollutants (CO, NOx) than existing heating systems.
While the use of renewable resources is important in New York State, schools must also evaluate potential environmental effects from the use of renewable resources. Combustion of biomass for example could cause circumstances where the products of combustion are not properly dispersed (as a result of equipment technology or localized climatic conditions), thereby creating a potential health impact for students, staff and community members.
PM 2.5 is a pollutant of concern from all combustion systems. NYSERTA funded research has shown that the highest emissions are from a green wood-chip stoker boiler heating system at 0.28lb/MMBtu. The high efficiency staged combustion boiler with a premium wood pellet fuel, which had much lower moisture content, has approximately 75% lower emissions. This is about the same as PM2.5 emissions from a number 6 oil-fired boiler, and more than seven times higher than PM2.5 emissions from a oil-fired boiler, and 1,000 times higher than PM 2.5 emissions from an oil-fired boiler burning ultra-low sulfur heating oil."
This study fails to accurately account the carbon dioxide that wood pellet burning emits. It claims a net reduction of 194 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. The correct accounting is a net increase of 344 tons a year.
This study fails to report an increase in particulate air pollution that are known to be 12 times as cancer causing as cigarette smoke. It is well documented that particulate matter air pollution exposures increases the risk of athsma, strokes, and heart attacks, especially in vulnerable populations like children and elderly people. Increased exposures are correlated with increased school absenteeism, and have been shown to lower IQ's in children. The pellet boiler will release at least 870 times the amount of particulate air pollution than if gas was burned.
Is burning wood in our schools good for the environment, slowing climate change or the public's health? The evidence says the opppostite.
There is a plan to convert every school in the district to pellet boilers using electricity rate payer money to pay for most of the cost of the boilers. Here are some other feasiblity studies.
Hawlemont Elementary School is in the process of getting a biomass boiler.
Sanderson Academy in Ashfield just received a Massachusetts grant for a wood boiler.