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Renewable Biomass as a Poultry Facility Heating Option?

July 17, 2012

Written by The Minnesota Project’s Clean Energy Program Manager, Jake Fischer

Recently, I was invited to attend a grand opening event at Becker Fireplace Center, in Becker, MN. The company was debuting and promoting its new line of biomass furnaces and boilers. Jim Eiynick, one of the company’s co-owners, had reached out to me after hearing about the work we’ve been doing regarding energy efficiency in poultry facilities with LED lamps. Jim was excited about Becker Fireplace’s new offerings and noted that the new Wood Master-developed Forced Air Pellet Furnace they had brought to market would be the first of its kind selling in the United States.

Calling their new biomass fueled furnace initiative “Advanced Bio Heat,” the company will be offering commercial grade wood pellet furnaces in the 430,000 to 850,000 Btu range. Integrated hot forced air technology onto these furnaces is what makes them particularly unique, said Eiynick. Traditionally, furnaces of this size have utilized hot water piping heat exchanges converted to forced air, which results in some fuel to heat efficiency loss. Advanced Bio Heat’s new offerings will take the hot air from the furnace and be able to deliver that heat supply directly to the ductwork, resulting in a more efficient heating process.

Of particular interest to The Minnesota Project is this new technology’s potential application to heating poultry barns. Poultry producers have a considerable heating requirement, especially in Minnesota, and the opportunity to address this need through a renewable feedstock in wood pellets presents an interesting idea. Of course, The Minnesota Project is always excited to see new developments promoting renewable fuels over traditional fossil fuels, but, depending on the spot price of delivered fuels such as propane, wood pellets will often present a more cost effective fuel, making pellet heating a potentially sound investment. This tool, from Penn State University, provides a handy little calculator outlining various heating fuel sources, and which may be more economical than the other, taking into account current fuel costs.

As an added bonus to potential cost savings, the utilization of a wood pellet heat source appears to have some opportunity to improve flock health and working conditions in poultry barns. These potential benefits are realized through the very dry heat produced via the wood pellet burning process. Dryer air in poultry barns can mean reduced barn ammonia levels, and a prolonged, higher quality litter.

I had the opportunity to view one of these new furnaces in action, and it was pretty impressive. I’m admittedly only beginning to learn about bioheat applications in farming, so I’ll continue to attempt to learn more about the positives and/or negatives of this technology moving forward. For the time being, this sounds like a good Minnesota company working on issues that may present a win-win situation for both the energy efficiency/ renewable energy sector and agricultural sector. I’ll be excited to watch how this initiative develops.

Thanks again to the folks at Becker Fireplace and Advanced Bio Heat for having me out and showing me around, it was a great experience.

What are your thoughts? Any experience with bioheat systems? How about poultry? Would this be something that appeals to you? What might you identify as benefits and challenges?

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