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Small rural communities explore switching to wood pellets for heat

This year, Arctic Energy Alliance commissioned two studies relating to wood pellets and how they can be made available to communities.

One looked at shipping wood pellets up the Mackenzie River by barge. The other is looking at creating small wood-pellet factories in communities lacking road access.

“We cut our own firewood and a lot of communities are interested in larger projects for their larger buildings. And some places like Fort McPherson are even talking about maybe harvesting some of the willows that grow around their community and chipping them,” said Jim Sparling, who works with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The research is part of $100,000 in extra funding announced for the Arctic Energy Alliance this year.

Sparling said that as the town of Inuvik, N.W.T., phases out of natural gas, the government expects more people will switch to wood stoves.

“Directly in response to the Inuvik situation, so they [pellets] are much more available. We think there will be a lot more demand for services in the coming year.”

Sparling said wood-pellet stoves are more popular in the southern part of the territory but are rarely used in communities where pellets are expensive to ship and store.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations