Madison company aims to turn pulpwood into insulation, reducing buildings’ energy use


Maine’s woodlands are a foundational aspect of the state’s plans to generate down emissions of earth-warming carbon dioxide. It can be a extensive and escalating forest, and each and every year its ability to take in CO2 boosts.

Conservationists say that carbon sink need to be preserved and expanded to fulfill the state’s local climate ambitions. And improvements at an outdated paper mill in Somerset County may possibly clearly show a single way the timber business can assist in the work.

This story is section of our sequence “Local weather Pushed: A deep dive into Maine’s reaction, one particular county at a time.”

Deep Dive Climate Driven

Commencing in the 19th century and long lasting into the 21st, paper mills all-around Maine took in tons of very low-top quality pulpwood each individual day, churning out cellulose, newsprint and other inventory for the country’s vivid periodicals marketplace.

But with rise of digital content material and global trade, and the explosion of a pulp digester in Jay two several years ago, Maine’s pulpwood markets collapsed. Several mills are tranquil now.

“We are sitting down listed here where by they employed to make the New York Times,” Matthew O’Malia, the co-founder of a business referred to as GO Lab Madison, states with a snicker. “Not making the New York Instances in this article any more.”

O’Malia sits in a brick-lined assembly area in the outdated Madison Mill, wanting out more than a hydroelectric dam that spans the Kennebec River.
GO Lab is retrofitting the facility to method reduced-top quality byproducts of the state’s lumber sector — softwood sawmill chips and timber-harvest detritus that suitable now are challenging to market. They will switch it into wood-fiber insulation, known as Timber HP. Some 230 million tons value a 12 months.

“At the conclude of the tree’s lifestyle or when it is really harvested if it were being to continue to be in the forest it would die and release the carbon into the ambiance,” O’Malia says. “We are likely to choose that carbon and lock it into the making.”


EPA facts emphasize the importance of Maine’s forest as a carbon sink.


The Maine makers of a new wood-fiber setting up insulation product or service say it will meet up with virtually all competition on cost, and beats them all on carbon cost savings.

Equivalent technologies has been utilised in Europe for decades. But insulation, currently being mostly air, isn’t really economically practical for import to the U.S. So pioneering wood-fiber insulation below is thrilling environmentalists and investors, with the vast majority of the $100 million job financed by municipally backed “inexperienced” bonds.

O’Malia is a small shy about recounting the “aha” instant that served him and associate Joshua Henry find their way into the insulation enterprise.

“Yeah yeah yeah, it’s not my favored tale,” he states.

O’Malia is an architect, and a leader in Maine’s emerging “passivhaus” motion, which aims to design housing and industrial structures that demand extremely reduced energy inputs to retain them warm or neat, thereby decreasing CO2 emissions.

A single working day he and Henry, a chemist by training, were being considering foam insulation that lined the shell of a partially concluded passivhaus college making in Belfast.

“And he’s like, ‘Oh terrific, I see what you might be doing, you’re constructing a cheap beer cooler.’ And I’m like, ‘OK, that harm,'” O’Malia states. “Fundamentally it truly is derived directly from fossil fuels. And this is the problem: We’re investing just one environmental disaster, which is operational strength for buildings, for another, which is the resources we’re utilizing to establish them, to try out resolve the initial challenge. We didn’t address any problem.”

But they could have now. In accordance to the company’s estimates, they can create nontoxic, wood-fiber batting, blown-in fill and boards at R scores and prices competitive with all the traditional insulation products. By the firm’s accounts, only fiberglass would be cheaper — but fiberglass does appear with a carbon price, as do mineral wool and foam.

The company’s wood fiber insulation, by contrast, will really have a unfavorable carbon price, since it will sequester far more carbon than is utilised to make it.

“I assume it is wonderful. We are actually fortuitous to have an modern organization like this coming online,” claims Amanda Beal, commissioner of the condition Office of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and co-chair of Gov. Janet Mills’ Forest Carbon Process Force.


Timber HP insulation products and solutions built by GO Lab in Madison.

Beal says the undertaking could make a measurable contribution to the state’s carbon finances, when the 120 work created would mark progress toward Mills’ intention of introducing 30,000 “green” employment” to Maine’s financial system by 2030.

“These minimal-quality wooden marketplaces are really vital for woodland owners who would like to show up at to their woods and guarantee that they can mature even bigger, more mature, greater-high quality trees that retailer and sequester carbon,” she says. “So there are a good deal of gains to those people work opportunities in terms of seriously supporting the green financial state.”
Some of Maine’s largest land professionals say the technological know-how could also incorporate worth to forest-sequestration carbon credits they offer to polluting organizations in California, the place the government requires them to offset their CO2 emissions.

They insert, although, that 3rd-celebration, real-globe validation of any carbon financial savings will be expected. And for now, some big landowners that are in effortless transport length of the Madison challenge say they will be pleased just to come across a new property for pulpwood, the market for which has all but disappeared.

“As these marketplaces began to drop, it became progressively challenging to be equipped to deal with specified stand kinds, particularly stands that experienced a substantial proportion of smaller sized diameter, reduced top quality timber,” claims Daniel LaMontagne, president of 7 Islands Land Organization, which manages more than 800,000 acres in Maine. “Candidly, margins endured as a consequence.”


Fred Bever


Maine General public

GO Lab’s Timber HP facility in Madison, a former paper mill presently going through retrofitting.

Timber HP is aiming to capture as significantly as 7% of the regional insulation industry, and LaMontagne claims it’s a product that would seem primed for expansion.

“I consider there would be a fantastically encouraging reception, where ever they found a wooden basket that was in sore require of new desire,” he says.

In an additional part of the Madison mill, O’Malia and his team have set up a sort of laboratory to demonstrate off for future prospects a variety of features of the insulation, these as its hearth resistance or its capability to breathe but keep impermeable to h2o.

He states structures account for practically 40% of greenhouse gas emissions, and he is hopeful markets and federal government policies will motivate broader adoption of systems like his.

“We are chatting about introducing this I feel crucial device for local weather mitigation into the North American sector and then it truly is about scaling that in an ideal way. It is tremendous crucial to do it with the ideal product because if you do it with the erroneous material you negate any reward that you might be proposing,” O’Malia suggests.

The Cianbro design company is retrofitting the plant now, putting in infrastructure transported in from Europe. Timber HP strategies to start turning wood chips into carbon-banking insulation in early 2023.


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