MEREDITH — The winter that won't go away has placed a significant stress on the wood pellet supply across the Lakes Region, as it has throughout all of New England, and last weekend saw many retailers in the area without a single bag of pellets available for people looking to stock up in anticipation of another blast of arctic air moving through the area.
Typical of those out searching for pellets were Patti and Andy Johnson of Northfield, who went to a half dozen places in Tilton, Belmont and Laconia area before finally locating some at EnergySavers atop Ladd Hill on Rte. 3 here.
''We go through about two bags a day and were really getting low. We were able to get 10 bags and feel that we were really lucky to find them,'' said Johnson.
The Johnsons weren't the only people who sought out wood pellets at EnergySavers that day according to Joe McClure, who works there. ''We had people from all over, Maine, Vermont, even as far away as Rhode Island show up Saturday to buy pellets,'' said McClure.
He said that the company got a 10-ton shipment of 30-pound bags last week and is limiting customers to 10 bags at a time in order to have some on hand for those who may need them until a 30-ton shipment they have on order arrives next week.
On Monday, Kim Bannon of Campton arrived at EnergySavers in mid afternoon and picked up 10 bags of wood pellets to make sure that she had enough to get through the winter. ''We get a couple of tons a year and we're getting low and want to make sure we get through the year. We have oil heat but we'd rather not use if we don't have to,'' said Bannon.
''It's been a really cold winter. People who normally go through three tons a year are deep into their fourth ton or starting their fifth ton. We usually have a good supply year round as a service to our customers who don't have storage space, so we're in pretty good shape,'' says McClure.
He said that many of the larger retail outlets have run out because they are in the process of shifting to their spring inventory and don't want to have any pellets left over once the heating season ends.
Demand is still high all over the state according to McClure, who said that he had talked with people at a North Conway store who received a shipment of 17 tons of pellets last Friday and were sold out by noon on Saturday.
Charles Nieibling of Innovative Natural Resource Solutions of Amherst, a consultant with New England Wood Pellet in Jaffrey, where he was general manager for seven years, says that the company produces 250,000 tons of pellets a year and runs seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
''We build up a huge inventory built up during the summer and it was completely gone by the middle of November. We're shipping everything as we make it. There's no extra inventory,'' said Niebling, who says the company allocates its production to try and ensure that all of its regular customers get a supply.
He said that in recent years consumers have shifted from buying a large supply of pellets in the spring to smaller and more frequent buys during the heating season.
''They could drive into places like Lowe's and Home Depot on Saturday when they started to run low. But with this winter's big demand, places like that have run out,'' said Niebling, who points out that heating oil and propane prices have risen and that there have been concerns about possible shortages for those energy sources.
Kim Bannon of Campton holds a 30-pound bag of wood pellets, one of 10 that she was able to purchase Monday at EnergySavers in Meredith. Joe McClure of EnergySavers said that people from all over New England showed up at the store Saturday to buy wood pellets, which are in scarce supply over the entire area. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)