Vermont Wood Pellet Company
Location: Clarendon, VT
Loan Guarantee: $100,000
The beautiful fall foliage for which northern towns like Clarendon, VT, are best known might be worth another look. These forests are growing jobs and offsetting the need for millions of gallons of fuel oil.
Chris Brooks, CEO of Vermont Wood Pellet Company, has witnessed these benefits firsthand. Vermont Wood Pellet designed its community-scale plant to produce up to 20,000 tons of high-BTU fuel pellets. Brooks says they sized the plant to fit the local wood supply. They use softwood and low-grade timber culled from managed forest lands in a 30-mile radius of the plant and sell to local retailers. The plant helps farmers; when farm incomes fall, local farmers cull their own woodlots to sell to Vermont Wood Pellet.
The fuel pellets are used in high-efficiency (80-85%) space heating stoves or furnaces, often automated to feed the fuel. Vermont Wood Pellet tries to eliminate fossil fuel use throughout its operations, as well as helping customers cut fossil fuel use.
After just two years, demand for the company’s fuel pellets exceeded their production capacity. The company applied for a REAP grant to build a triple-pass drum dryer and upgraded air system, significantly expanding their capacity. A $50,000 REAP grant helped finance 25% of the cost and a $100,000 loan guarantee helped secure a bank loan. This expansion offsets an additional 800,000 gallons of fuel oil use every year, increasing the total annual oil offset for the company to about 2 million gallons.
Vermont Wood Pellet’s expanded facility created eight new jobs in the mill and approximately four times that number of additional jobs for loggers and truckers.