Turns out there's another kind of Winter Olympics where the Upper Valley continues to excel. Last November, I travelled to Washington D.C. to participate as a panelist in the "Woodstove Decathlon," where 14 finalists from around the Globe competed for a $25,000 first prize and bragging rights for producing the best new woodstove based on these five criteria: Innovation, Emissions, Efficiency, Affordability and Most Consumer Friendly.
The event, organized by the Alliance for Green Heat and sponsored by Popular Mechanics Magazine, sought to encourage and draw attention to a new-generation of super-efficient woodstoves that are quietly playing a dominant role in the Renewable Energy sector. Who would guess that biomass (the category of wood-based fuel that includes cordwood, pellets, agricultural waste, and wood chips) produces far more BTU's of energy in the U.S. than hydro, solar, wind, and geothermal combined?
And the Winner? the "Ideal Steel" model from Woodstock Soapstone Stove , based on the Airport Road in West Lebanon, NH.
Owner Tom Morrissey from Lyme attributed his team's success to giving his designers free reign to think "outside the box" and to remember that affordability (and commercial viability) were among the key judging criteria. Competing alongside stoves and masonry heaters that, in some cases, would cost 10 times as much to purchase and install, the Ideal Steel is an efficient and quirkily handsome appliance that, in some cases, can produce enough fuel savings in a single heating season to repay your initial investment.
Last month, Woodstock Soapstone announced that they are now taking orders for the Ideal Steel at special introductory prices. Production will begin this Summer, and since they only sell on a direct-to-consumer basis (not through stove shops), you should visit their W. Lebanon showroom or check out their website for more details.
And, while you are at it, follow the fascinating world of wood heat at the Alliance For Green Heat, founded by John Ackerly, another "Wood Heat Olympian" with strong Upper Valley ties!