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Wood energy is theme of Tanana convention

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Posted: Saturday, October 27, 2012 10:54 pm | Updated: 11:52 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Residents from about 20 Alaska communities arrive at the Alpine Lodge in Fairbanks today for five days of presentations and field trips on the subject of wood energy.

The village of Tanana, which began investing in wood boilers to reduce heating costs in 2006, is hosting the event with support from the Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation and the Alaska Energy Authority.

“A lot of this stuff we learned on the seat of our pants,” said Tanana City Manager and conference organizer Bear Ketzler. “We want to share what we learned, and if we can prevent other communities who are going through this process from going through some of the headaches that we did, then that it is money well spent.”

In Tanana, which lies at the confluence of the Yukon and Tanana rivers and has a population of about 300 in the summer, city leaders realized in 2006 their way of life was not sustainable because of rising diesel prices. The city turned to wood-burning boilers because it has access to hundreds of thousands of cords of wood floating down the Tanana river, Ketzler said.

The city uses wood boilers for heat and hot water in its washeteria, fire station and school. The wood fuel has taken the place of 20,000 gallons of diesel the city normally would use, but with some 340,000 gallons still burned per year, expensive diesel remains the main fuel used for heating and generating electricity.

During this week’s conference, participants will travel to see the wood-powered boilers used to heat public buildings in Tanana, visit the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, tour the Superior Pellet Fuels facility, and hear from more than 20 presenters and panelists.

Because of space constraints at the Alpine Lodge, conference events are not open to the public. If you would like to inquire about attending a specific event call Ketzler at 978-5848.

Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545.

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