Wood Working in Deposit

By Matt Markham

June 9, 2011 Updated Jun 9, 2011 at 8:56 PM EDT

Deposit, NY (WBNG Binghamton) More and more people are looking to alternative forms of energy to heat and power their homes. That incentive is now bringing more business to the Southern Tier.

"It is a growing industry," said New England Wood Pellet CEO Steve Walker. "Our fuel is half the cost of oil."

Now the largest producer of wood pellets calls Deposit home.

"The plant is going to be able to produce about 85 to 90 thousand tons of product, which will offset about 10 million gallons of heating oil," Walker said.

New England Wood Pellet took over the old Norbord plant.

It's estimated to put $10 million in to the local economy every year, which is almost as much as Delaware County invested in the plant.

"There's close to 120 jobs off-premises, plus the twenty-something jobs that are here. So, it's a huge deal for Delaware County," said Jim Thompson, chairman of Delaware County Industrial Development.

What's used to make the pellets will come from mostly local trees and local people who contribute their excess product to the plant in Deposit.

"Sawdust from wood mills, chips from saw mills, forest operations," Walker said. "There's a lot of low grade wood that's being cut and otherwise doesn't have a really good value."

"It's fantastic use for the byproduct," said Dave Reining, who owns a lumber company in Beach Lake. "It makes every part of the tree valuable and for good use."

More and more people are choosing to heat their homes with stoves fueled by pellets. Supporters of the industry note the environmental benefits.

"Wood pellet stoves basically have controlled air and they burn very clean," said Assemblyman Cliff Crouch (R -- 107th district). "Even in start up, you barely see any smoke at all."

It's estimated that 25,000 homes can be heated from what's made here.

Though this would be the largest manufacturing plant for wood pellets, New England Wood Pellet is based in New Hampshire.

Most of the employees at the plant used to work for Norbord before it closed in November of 2009.