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Two Trees Forestry
167 Main St.
P.O. Box 356
Winthrop, ME 04364
V: (207) 377-7196
F: (207) 377-7198 harold@twotreesforestry.com

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Friday, May 12 2017

New pellet plant cranks up with wood from Chewonki

Logger Erik Carlson's new pellet plant in Edgecomb

March 2017 saw the blending of the old with the new, with our most long standing client-landowner, sending low-grade hemlock to a first-of-its-kind wood pellet plant in Boothbay where Erik Carlson will convert trees from Wiscasset’s Chewonki Foundation into a fuel that will heat homes with the turn of a thermostat. The 100-year old environmental education organization benefited from Carlson’s modern day ingenuity and decidedly independent streak. Carlson, who has selectively harvested portions of Chewonki Neck several times, opted to create a new market for the pine and hemlock pulpwood that comes off lands that he and others harvest. His timely efforts came as pulp-mill wood purchases declined, as their demand fell.

And so, in 2016 he traveled to China to learn how to install and operate the small pellet-making machine that is now assembled at the Boothbay Industrial Park, and with his Dad and other’s help, is now making pellets. Though as Carlson quickly learned, “Making pellets is easy. Making good pellets is an art form.” Working with UMaine’s Wood Technology Lab, Carlson has mastered some of the manufacturing intricacies necessary to efficiently meet Pellet Fuels Institute specifications. Understandably, different tree species don’t compress uniformly and unless processed properly pellets may disintegrate into sawdust or retain more moisture than is optimal.

His goals are modest, as he expects to mostly generate his own raw materials from the woodlots that he manages and/or harvests to produce 700 tons of pellets annually. While his mill’s productive capacity is tiny compared to the state’s pulp mills or even the other pellet mills in, it is already beginning to fill a niche, as was seen back in Wiscasset. “This is an interesting story around local forestry,” agrees Chewonki Farm Manager Megan Phillips. “Erik opened up his wood pellet plant as a means of having more steady work opportunities in the shoulder seasons or when unpredictable weather conditions do not allow for logging.” And in so doing helped local landowners sell difficult-to-move wood.

Chewonki has historically managed its woodlots to maintain healthy outdoor settings for natural history and group building lessons, while also demonstrating practical ways that society can sustainably benefit from the planet’s forests while not degrading them. But in March, as logger Ron Dostie was trying to finish up a selective harvest near the farm, the pulpmill in Jay stopped buying his pine and hemlock. Fortunately, Carlson stepped in. As a result Dostie finished, and thus enabled the quality and still-standing oak, pine, and hemlock trees to regain vigor and withstand a few local insect threats, including both brown-tailed moths and hemlock woolly adelgids.

And so once again, Chewonki has helped form a win-win scenario. As Phillips summarized, “Carlson’s plant is manufacturing a sustainable heat source from a local product, and Chewonki is supporting local jobs, in their nascent stages, by providing some of the softwood he needs.”