Though he’s easily over six feet tall, Steve Walker is dwarfed by the dark mountains of sawdust behind him. Color that brown dust gold: It is the humble raw material that built Walker’s /n/n10 million business, New England Wood Pellet. Walker’s business is growing fast — about 40 percent this year — and, with the spike in oil prices, it’s getting media attention from the likes of CBS News and The New York Times. Only 38 years old, Walker is already an old-timer in the wood pellet business. In 1992, Walker, then living in Acton, Mass., learned that the wood pellets a friend used for his stove came from Montana. Figuring that there was no reason pellets couldn’t be manufactured locally, Walker went over to a local Blue Seal to see how they made animal feed pellets. Soon after that, Walker started manufacturing pellets, one at a time, in the basement of his home. “I learned slowly and painfully that the production process is not the same for wood pellets as for feed,” Walker says. In 1995, Walker moved his growing business to Jaffrey, N.H. The former basement business now produces over 75,000 tons of pellets a year and is one of the largest wood pellet manufacturers in the country. Walker is buoyantly optimistic about the future of renewable energy. “Everyone, from homeowner to CEO, should spend time looking at ways to cut their energy use,” he says. “People need to realize that energy conservation doesn’t mean compromise. You don’t have to freeze or drive slowly. Between wind, solar, geothermal and biomass, we don’t need to use fossil fuels in this country.” Then, proudly gesturing to his enormous production facility, Walker says, “Fossil fuels are always trying to hide — their pollution, their damage to the environment and to human health. We want to be seen!” For more information, visit www.pelletheat.com.