High demand for heat leads to wood fuel shortage

HOLLAND, Mich. (WZZM) -- This winter, most people have been looking for heat wherever they can find it; now a growing number of people are warming up to the idea of a wood pellet stove.

"It's been great and It's been frustrating for us, we want to serve all of our customers," says Ben Rose, CEO of Michigan Wood Fuels. Rose says Michigan Wood Fuels is trying to keep up with demand. The company turns wood chips into pellets that can be used in a wood pellet stove.

"The pellets are very slowly fed into what's call the burn chamber," says Rose. It's a cheaper alternative for heat, especially with propane prices soaring. "Propane is probably two and a half times the cost for heat."

However, some people are having trouble finding wood pellets in stores this winter. Rose says demand is up about 25% and everyone started buying in December. "We can make enough pellets, we just can't make enough in the four or five months in the intense winter," says Rose.

He estimates there are about 40,000 wood fuel stoves in Michigan, mainly in rural areas. Another thing that contributed to the shortage of wood fuels in Michigan is the fact that there aren't that many suppliers, In fact, Michigan Wood Fuels says it comprises about a quarter of the market in the state.

The company sells most wood pellets in the winter months, but Rose would like that to change. "I know it seems difficult to think about your heating fuel in June," says Rose. However, he says planning ahead in summer could keep people warmer in winter.

Rose says a wood pellet stove usually runs from $1,500 to $2,000, but he says it's a much cheaper way of heating a home after that initial cost. He also says it's a clean form of energy.


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