Orono Company Hopes to Grow Pellet Heating 

An Orono company is hoping to grow the wood pellet fuel industry in Maine with an innovative business model.

Heating Company PelletCo is hoping Mainers warm up to the idea of wood pellet heating–by installing boilers for free.

“We’re in a position to offer them a contract for heat and pay for the heat they use only,” said PelletCo operations manager Steven Healy.

Monson’s Community Center has already made the switch, thanks to investors in PelletCo’s novel business model.

“We sat down and worked out a deal where we could provide them with capital to finance these, so a town like this puts up no capital to have the system installed and operating for them,” said Bernie Zahren, manager of Connecticut-based investment fund Clean Feet Investors, which has invested money in PelletCo’s business plan.

Company officials say pellets can save customers up to 20 percent compared to oil.

“They’re going to pay a flat rate or steady flat rate for the pellet fuel. There’s not going to be the volatility and price jumps that you get with foreign oil,” said Healy.

The pellets are made from trees grown right here in Maine, and company officials say it’s cheaper and more sustainable than burning fossil fuels, and it helps stimulate the local economy.

“We’re looking for something that helps with the tremendous problem we have with climate change and what we’re doing to the atmosphere by burning way too much fossil fuels,” said Zahren.

The pellets PelletCo delivers to its customers come straight from pellet mills here in Maine, like this one in Corinth.

“The state of Maine has at least five pellet mills up and running at this point, dotted around the state,” said Healy.

Officials at PelletCo say while their business model is currently geared toward commercial and municipal buildings, they encourage interested homeowners to look into it — and believe pellets are indeed the fuel of the future.

“I can only imagine what might improve over the next ten years, let’s say, in the consumption of pellets as a heating fuel,” said Healy.