Curran Renewable Energy in Massena highlights struggles of wood pellet producers in New York state's slowly emerging renewable energy industry

LOS ANGELES , July 11, 2012 () – Wood pellet manufacturer Curran Renewable Energy in Massena is on the front line of New York state’s renewable energy push, North Country Public Radio (NCPR) reported on July 11.

The emerging renewable energy market has problems, however, ranging from steep start-up costs for green energy technology to confusing government incentives.

Pat Curran founded Curran Renewable Energy in 2009. Customers include Clarkson University in Potsdam and the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, but Curran said it has been hard to generate sufficient business.

Curran has three pellet mills and had plans for a fourth but is not able to finance that yet. The company has faced a glut in the market because there are too many pellet suppliers and too little demand.

“We were optimistic that this plant would run at 75% the first year,” Curran told NCPR. “We really ran at about 11% the first year.”

Until mid-March, the plant was running seven days a week then it went to five days a week. Last year, said Curran, the facility produced at 59% of its capacity.

U.S. wood pellet producers face many issues beyond their control, ranging from fluctuating oil prices to a dearth of regulations or guidelines in many states for pellet stove technology. That leaves people often confused about the best furnaces to buy.

Curran hopes to compete in the future by making very high quality pellets that hold consistent amounts of energy, so they burn at a dependable rate.

According to NCPR, in the past month, Curran has begun selling to home improvement retailer Lowe’s and to a Canadian company called Belfry.

The pellet producer has access to an abundance of wood, and Curran is hopeful renewable energy can replace the paper industry in buying up low-quality wood unsuitable for lumber.

He told NCPR: “From here on out, we have to be stewards, and the best thing we can do is be the best steward and hope like heck we can grow a good, domestic market for the product that we produce.”

The primary source of this article is North Country Public Radio, Canton, New York, July 11, 2012.

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