Jaffrey, New Hampshire [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] In a move designed to rapidly enhance wood pellet fuel availability in the northeast before the heating season begins, New England Wood Pellet announced it has begun construction of a $1.5 million wood pellet bagging and distribution plant in Palmer, Massachusetts, 15 miles east of Springfield just off the Massachusetts Turnpike. The plant will be operational by September.New England Wood Pellet is leasing and remodeling 40,000 square feet of warehouse space from the MapleTree Industrial Center to house its rail off-loading, bagging and distribution facility. The company has a five-year agreement with British Columbia pellet manufacturer Houston Pellet Inc. to import by bulk rail about 82,500 tons of premium wood pellets annually – enough fuel to heat over 27,000 average homes. Pellets will be off-loaded from three 100-ton railcars per day on a spur of the New England Central Railroad adjacent the facility. They will then be packaged in 40-pound bags, stacked on one ton pallets, and shipped to over 80 retail dealers throughout the northeastern U.S. The new facility will employ about eight people. “We can’t keep up with demand for our product,” said Steve Walker, President and CEO of New England Wood Pellet. “So we’ve decided to supplement our own production with a very high quality pellet from Canada. By leasing space that is ready to go, we can get this fuel into New England before the heating season begins, and help relieve shortages we’ve seen the last few years.” Demand for wood pellets has increased significantly in response to increases in oil, propane and natural gas prices in recent years. Consumers are also showing increasing preference for clean burning, “carbon neutral,” renewable energy products. New England Wood Pellet’s current facility produces more than 80,000 tons per year, all of which has been fully allocated to dealers through 2007. The Palmer facility is one component of an ambitious expansion plan that includes construction of a $10 million manufacturing plant near Utica, New York, completion of a 20,000 square foot wood-pellet machinery fabrication shop in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, ongoing evaluation of additional plant sites, and continual capacity and efficiency upgrades to the company’s flagship plant in Jaffrey.