Comparing simple wood stove benefits, to both the environment and the owner’s wallet, to solar energy.
Even if the energy savings were equivalent, the Vermont system arguably provides more benefits. I don’t mean to discount the good things about solar power. But what is the logic behind offering incentives that are 10 or 20 times larger for a solar installation that produces less than half as much clean energy as a basic wood heat system? And the power that a solar system creates isn’t automatically greener than the power it replaces. Sometimes solar panels replace electricity generated in high-emissions coal-burning plants, but electricity also comes from hydroelectric, nuclear, or relatively clean-burning natural-gas power plants.
In contrast, all residential oil-burning heaters release carbon that has been locked underground for eons, adding to the net load of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Wood isn’t like that. A tree pulls carbon out of the air as it grows; when you burn it the CO2 returns to the atmosphere, where other trees can use it in turn. The same thing would happen if the wood were left in the forest to rot. And it’s not like we’re short on trees. “A lot of forests in the U.S. are vastly overstocked with fuel,” says Steve Marshall, assistant director of cooperative forestry at the U.S. Forest Service. Responsible thinning operations can yield plenty of environmentally friendly fuel.