Dec 7, 2022·edited Dec 8, 2022Liked by Lissa Harris

Love this story and your initiative to cover topics of community resilience (or attempts at it). I’m a believer that focusing on what’s working and cloning it to the extent possible will bring change (read Switch by Chip and Dan Heath) where change is needed and it’s clear we can’t continue burning fossil fuels to heat buildings for ever…

I’m a fan of Fleischmanns and all it’s quirks. So I watched closely (from NH where I had relocated) as this project derailed and I felt sorry for Todd (also a good friend of mine)…There’s more to it as to why it didn’t work out…Fleischmanns lacks a large user on the would be system…an anchor tenant if you will. But for the reasons you describe it’s fair to say that new “big ideas” suffer here from looking at things with an “upstate of mind”. I know this become I’m an upstater too having grown up in the shadow of post industrial Binghamton (though I have lived and worked in VT and NH where advanced wood heat is mainstream). From my vantage point, Vermonters (and other rural New England forested states) have been heating large public buildings and small communities with wood chips for decades. When BERC came in to assess the opportunity, they had a very Vermonter attitude. Frugal Yankees don’t waste anything and heating with chip makes perfectly good use of a waste product of milling and forestry. But BERC were outsiders plain and simple. And Jim Waters was kind of pushy. It’s really about meeting people where they’re at and building trust. We just don’t have the same frugality that rural New Englanders have which is one reason simple ideas like this seem too complex. Meanwhile, over the last 10 years or so, there have been somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 (and counting) wood chip and wood pellet community-scale heating installations in New England and only a handful in NY. It’s not that we can’t do it here, because we can and it makes sense for the circular economy (78 cents of every dollar spent on heating with heating oil leaves the region). It’s just that when things seem too hard, its simply easier to continue business as usual and go about living their lives and minding their own business.

However, there most certainly IS a place for community-scale wood heat in the matrix of renewable heating options available to rural NY whether NYSERDA thinks so anymore or not (clearly they downplayed it considerably in the Draft CLCPA to focus on other larger CO2 emitters in other sectors). In comparison, the amount of biogenic carbon from wood heat is minuscule in comparison. So the simply didn’t waste time on it but by not stating it as part of the solution, alienated rural NYers that heat with wood.

The forester in me just can’t help to emphasize this point….Every successful renewable energy project I’ve seen as had a local champion and for this one Todd was it…But (Village politics aside) he did the right thing by stepping away to focus his energy on his own business rather than get dragged down by inertia of nay-sayers. For every renewable energy feasibility study written, only a fraction actually lead to successful implementation. A whole book could be written on why they fail but the one common denominator for all the successes out there was they had a local champion. I’m a local champion and would love to continue the conversation about why this type of heating makes sense in certain situations. Hopefully this can be a forum for constructive dialogue when so

Many rural NYers are struggling with heat this winter.

Expand full comment