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Indiana Program Aims to Replace Polluting Wood Boilers With Renewable Energy

wood

A coalition of nonprofits in Indiana is targeting outdoor wood-fired boilers in an attempt to improve the state’s air quality.

The Hoosier Environmental Council, the American Lung Associationof the Upper Midwest and other partners are offering grants to homeowners who burn wood outdoors to heat their homes. The grant money will pay to replace those boilers with renewable energy — either geothermal or solar — heating systems.

Jesse Kharbanda is the executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council. His group estimates there are still about 8,000 outdoor wood boilers — or OWBs — in Indiana, mostly in rural areas throughout the state.

“Poorly constructed and/or poorly operated outdoor wood boilers have been a problem in several different parts of the country for several years,” Kharbanda said. “We’ve heard tragic stories both here in Indiana and outside of our state that really illuminate the kind of pain that homeowners who live near these OWBs face.”

Outdoor wood boilers emit large amounts of air pollution, specifically particulate matter. Particulate pollution can be a nuisance for neighbors and cause respiratory problems. Older boilers are especially problematic; the Environmental Protection Agency announced stricter standards on new OWBs earlier this year.

Kharbanda said data show that a single 15-year-old OWB can produce as much pollution as 8,000 natural gas furnaces. Although there have been OWB replacement programs before, Kharbanda said most have replaced older boilers with newer models.

“What we’re trying to do is kind of pioneer a different paradigm, which is to shift again from OWBs into a totally different device — renewable energy — which emits no air pollution whatsoever,” he said.

The groups have $500,000 in grant money for the program and will give priority to Indiana residents who are low-income or have OWBs that have been a source of neighborhood complaints.

For more information about the program, or to apply, click here.

Featured Image: Robert Kerton, CSIRO via Wikimedia Commons.

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Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.