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New firewood kiln harnesses existing energy, creating jobs and clean air

Published: Dec. 3, 2020 at 4:16 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - A new firewood kiln in Fairbanks is helping to clean up the air and bring jobs to Alaska’s Interior. Aurora Energy Solutions, a sister company to Aurora Energy which runs the power plant downtown recently installed the kiln to dry firewood. The company will be providing dried firewood to the interior that meets standards for air quality to lower pollution.

According to Chad Schumacher, general manager of Aurora Energy Solutions, the company buys raw trees from local loggers, which are then stored in piles. Individual trees are then cut into 16″ logs which are then run through a splitter before being put into baskets to be placed in the kiln. Depending on the temperatures, they can have dried wood in 48-72 hours and then distribute it to the community.

Schumacher said that they are able to run the kiln with no additional pollution by using steam from the power plant across the river. The steam is diverted into the kiln where it heats the building to 230°F. The diverted steam is run back into the plant in the form of condensation meaning the kiln uses no additional energy and creates no additional pollution.

“This entire project came together because of the air quality issues that our industry, the solid fuel burning industry faces,” Schumacher said.

He went on to say that one of the biggest contributors to emissions in the interior is residential solid fuel burning. “By improving the quality standards of the fuels used in that process, we are greatly reducing the overall emissions footprint that the solid fuel industry is contributing to our community’s air quality challenges.”

Schumacher also said it helps, not hurts local firewood sellers. “Our ideal industry is for us to be able to provide those existing firewood distributors with a higher quality fuel for their customer base and work directly with them,” adding that they already work with some distributors.

Schumacher said they will be able to sell their product in bulk at a cheaper rate so that the distributors can still make money. He also said it will help the logging industry as they will become the largest consumer of local timber. Their primary fuel source is birch while most other logging operations have focused predominantly on spruce.

“What that does for us is greatly improves the economics for all timber industry, because now you’re getting into areas that were previously uneconomic to harvest. Even though they were in a closer distance, the species blend wasn’t right,” Schumacher said.

He also said it helps the trucking and harvest equipment industries as well.

Because the kiln was installed in late fall, the company has gotten to a slow start, but they said by next summer they should be able to build up their inventory and be producing at full scale.

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