The following information was released by the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority (CDFA):
A group of homeowners gathered at Tea Birds Restaurant Tuesday night to celebrate the end of their addiction to home heating oil.
"Every time the oil truck goes by, I smile," said Marie Canning.
Canning's home is one of 36 Berlin homes that has or is in the process of replacing its oil burner with a high efficiency wood pellet boiler. It is estimated the 36 homeowners combined will save more than $50,000 a year in heating costs.
In addition to saving money, the homeowners are also proving that switching to a local renewable energy source helps the local economy and the environment. The project is expected to have a $200,000 annual impact on the local economy.
The homeowners participated in the Model Neighborhood Project, which subsidized the purchase and installation of the boilers. Launched in the fall of 2011 by the Northern Forest Center, Berlin BetterBuildings, and Maine Energy Systems, the goal was to install 40 pellet boilers in Berlin homes.
"Berlin has proven that this technology works, that we can use local wood to replace foreign oil, that we can spend our heating dollars locally and support jobs in the local forest industry," said Rob Riley, president of the Northern Forest Center.
Mike Wilson, senior program director at the Northern Forest Center, said Berlin now has the highest concentration of bulk pellet boilers in the country.
"Berlin really is a model for this," he said.
Wilson said the 36 boilers will annually eliminate 347 tons of carbon dioxide emissions and replace 31,000 gallons of oil.
Skip Bunnett of the Maine Energy System said the first group of homeowners in the program had a lot of patience as the new technology was introduced. Maine Energy System director Dutch Dresser said the enthusiasm of the first homeowners was crucial to the program's success and make it easier for others to make the switch.
"This really is a tremendous project," said Cimbria Badenhausen, community director for Berlin BetterBuildings. "Offering our clients a renewable energy alternative to enhance the savings obtained through energy efficiency measures was a wonderful bonus," she said.
Badenhausen said she wished the program would have been available to surrounding communities but it was limited to Berlin. Even so, Brad and Sue Wyman of Dummer toured one of the early installations in Berlin and decided to put a wood pellet boiler in their house on their own.
The program subsidized over two-thirds of the cost of transitioning from oil heating systems to the pellet boilers.