Wood fired power plants help reduce climate change

A retro idea in the UK is already in the US, I’d say it is a better method than some traditional power plant operations, but only works if you have an unlimited supply of trees nearby.

From the University of Manchester: How heating our homes could help reduce climate change

New Hamsphire's wood power project - from power-technology.com click

A radical new heating system where homes would be heated by district centres rather than in individual households could dramatically cut the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In a series of reports to be presented at a major conference this week, scientists at The University of Manchester claim using sustainable wood and other biofuels could hold the key to lowering harmful greenhouse gases.

Willow before being harvested for use for wood heating

Building district heating schemes which would provide heat and hot water for a neighbourhood or community would not only drastically reduce greenhouse gases but would also be highly cost effective, the authors claim.

Focus groups to test the UK public’s eagerness for such schemes have already been held and have resulted in the majority of people being in favour of the localised centres.

The plans would only provide cost savings if the heat demand is very steady.  Otherwise large scale dedicated electricity plants become the most cost effective way to save greenhouse gases with biomass, with costs per unit of carbon saved around half that of a smaller facility.

The reports state that using wood in UK power stations gave greenhouse gas reductions of over 84% and even higher savings of 94% were possible for heating schemes.

Prepared by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research to highlight the effectiveness of using sustainable fuels rather than rely on fossil fuels, the series of reports will be presented this week at the UK’s first bio conference – BioTen – which begins in Birmingham today (Tuesday 21st).

Author Dr Patricia Thornley suggests using a number of supply chains, including imported forest residues and local grown energy crops, would reduce emissions and save on fossil fuels.

The key is that biomass must be grown sustainably, taking into account potential for damage to the environment or undesirable socio-economic impacts.

Previous work by University of Manchester researchers took this into account in concluding that sustainable biomass could supply at least 4.9% of the UK’s total energy demand.

Realising that potential could result in savings of 18 Mt of carbon dioxide every year, which is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions associated with around 2.7 million households.

Dr Patricia Thornley, from the School of Mechanical Aerospace and Civil Engineering at The University of Manchester, said: “Bioenergy could play a very important part in helping the UK meet greenhouse gas reduction targets that will help to reduce the impact of climate change.

“Heating homes with wood reduces greenhouse gas emissions because plants and trees absorb carbon dioxide when they are growing and then re-release it when they are burnt for heating – so the only increase in greenhouse gas emissions are those involved in things like harvesting and processing the fuel.

“This work has taken a detailed look at all those emissions and established that even when we take them into account, there are still huge greenhouse gas savings to be made.

“If we can combine the low-carbon wood with really efficient heating systems, that offers an efficient and cost-effective route to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions.

“The challenge for the industry now is to concentrate on developing new efficient and cost-effective technologies for biofuel production and to concentrate on getting the heating technologies deployed in the right environment.”

Notes for editors

Dr Thornley is available for interview on request.
The papers, Assessing the sustainability of bioelectricity supply chains and Cost-effective carbon reductions in the Bioenegy sector are available from the Press Office.

The Tyndall Centre, created in 2000, is a distributed national centre for research into climate change mitigation and adaptation, with Manchester leading on decarbonisation of energy systems and long-term coastal processes.

For media enquiries contact

Daniel Cochlin
Media Relations
The University of Manchester
Tel: 0161 275 8387
email: daniel.cochlin@manchester.ac.uk

About these ads

111 thoughts on “Wood fired power plants help reduce climate change

  1. Oh, man, this brings up memories. The Soviet Union has been doing centralized community heating and hot water for ages. Even if this does something for emissions (who knows?) I’m awfully skeptical that it would be an effective approach from an energy efficiency standpoint, and certainly not over a large portion of the population. For scattered areas, homes that already have high efficiency furnaces, etc., this doesn’t seem like a better approach.

    Could have some benefit in some very specific locations, but I’m not holding my breath on any kind of large scale applications.

  2. Military bases where I’ve been stationed use something like this system. Their power plant’s waste steam is used to heat the buildings in the winter. The drawback is that they must switch from heating to cooling at a specific time each year, because you can’t switch at a moment’s notice. So unseasonably cool spring days or warm fall days can get a little uncomfortable.

    As far as using wood as fuel, well, you better have lots of space to store it. It just doesn’t have the energy density of coal, so you need lots of it.

  3. Integrating this concept into new construction in new planned communities would be relatively straightforward. Retrofitting this concept into existing dwellings in existing communities would be very difficult and expensive.

    Recovering heat which would otherwise be rejected to the atmosphere and using it for space heating, space cooling and water heating makes eminent sense from an energy efficiency standpoint, if the economics of the overall project make sense.

  4. Biomass is for energy production is unsustainable. Outside of tropical zones,
    no one is able to display any truly workable product/methodology, except for getting funding for their own pockets. Maybe global warming will help. I guess, if we chop down every tree in the world, it’ll work for a while.

  5. Let me get this straight…. we burn wood, one of the best and cheapest ways to sequester carbon on the planet, releasing the carbon into the atmosphere, and we thus reduce carbon emissions…..

    My guess is for this plan to work, you need a forest about the size of Delaware that is being constantly replanted. At some point some one has to say enough is enough.

    It’s my turn. Enough is enough.

  6. CO2 the fuel by product that comes back home? [Recycles itself?]

    If we burn coal and oil releasing the CO2 into the atmosphere, no matter where it is burned, it is equally available as plant food the world over. Automatic redistribution of the carbon wealth, sounds good, conversion by plants to food to be consumed or exported to low or non food producing countries, once consumed, will only release it back as CO2 again.

    Those areas that are most efficient at capturing CO2 into food and fuels will have surplus to sell to those who don’t. The inverse of the current policy of coal and oil sales by those few countries that have plenty, only to have the consuming countries return it available to all in the air as CO2. Cash flow one way CO2 flow the other gives a new perspective in renewable energy cash flow balance?

    Every world citizen has an equal chance at catching their fair share of the CO2 wealth, by their ability to grow fuel and food stuffs as they need them, and selling any surplus. Why yes in this form, a carbon economy works rather well. Incentives exist for each individual person, region, or country, to be self sustaining, so we don’t need government intervention, UN regulation, or cap and trade stuff.

    Just regional answers as to how to best apply solutions needed for the local plant production capacity mode of choice. This article has hit on a good starting point from this regional perspective.

  7. As there never has been one shred of peer reviewed empirical evidence that mankind’s emissions of carbon dioxide have any effect whatsoever on earth’s climate, this whole exercise is irrelevant except insofar as that it may be more efficient at generating and distributing energy. However, a non-distorted, non-subsidised pricing system is out and away the best determinant of what’s efficient and what’s not.
    In passing, I should add that higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are a good thing in that plants grow faster, making it easier for people to feed themselves.

  8. They seem not to be considering agricultural biomass?
    For every ton of grain harvested there are many more tons of plant left to rot.

  9. No one ever talks about the fact that green wood has a very large water content. Trying to burn it would be inefficient at best. Materials with a high water content CAN be burned, such as brown coal in Victoria (Australia), but the burners have to be specially designed and the flame temperature (thus thermal efficiency) will be comparatively low. The brown coal fields are up to 1000 feet (330 m) deep, so a lack of efficiency is not as important as it would be if the fuel were wet wood; wood for fuel would not be nearly as concentrated as brown coal, so collecting the fuel would be an appreciable cost.

    IanM

  10. Well who’d have thunk it!
    I remember back in the 60′s watching dad rake leaves, burn them in the gutter(kerb) & the rain washing them down the street to farming pastures which helped the grass grow. The (harmless) CO2 would be released into the atmosphere after the burn & wait for spring to return to be used by the trees to regrow the leaves. Don’t sound like rocket science to me!

  11. Err.. how is this radical or new when Scandanavia, Russia, Alaska or even hospitals have been doing this for years? Community waste incinerated, hot water or electricty sent back to the community. It fell out of fashion a bit because waste incineration, or ‘energy recovery’ as it’s more politely known is seen as dirty. I tried to convince my council to implement this in a big housing development. Neither they, the local greens or the developers were interested though. There’s no incentive for developers to build in the infrastructure regardless of fuel source. If there were, then centralised chipper and fuel pellet centres could turn trees, garden waste and building waste fuel to complement domestic waste incineration.

  12. “A radical new heating system where homes would be heated by district centres rather than in individual households could dramatically cut the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.”
    =============
    Transferring power generation to ever smaller entities, is the reverse of economy of scale. Need I say more. This is backwards thinking, and i’ll bet the trees agree. :)

  13. Biomass energy plants make sense only where shipping of the fuel is not a factor. This at least has been the experience in Washington State where hog fuel (saw mill waste) is used to produce electricity in the NE part of the state.

    In that plant they used locally provided hog fuel and the plant was competitive. When local sources of hog fuel dried up (the mills closed due to restrictive environmental policies and competition from areas without those policies), they tried to keep it going by shipping fuel from Canada and from the west coast, but transportation costs made the power too expensive.

  14. Oh I get it, so we’ll just remove the whole amazon because that’s good for climate change. The whole point of oil/coal.

    These Greenies have TOTALLY lost the plot!

  15. It’s not new, and there are even better ways: In Salzburg (Austria), they burn the garbage and pump hot water to all homes in the city for heating. Basically it is a cost that goes on the local taxes. Given the pretty harsh winters, it makes a huge amount of sense IMO.

  16. What is a crying shame is that most insurance companies disallow re-use of storm damaged housing lumber. After the Oklahoma City tornado in 1999, the material was carted off to landfills when a lot of it could have been recycled or burned for heat, even in fireplaces. Now I wonder how many potentially recyclable BTU’s that hurricane Katrina generated??

  17. How about expanding on this idea and tell the eco-wackos that lumber from trees for home construction is a great way to sequester CO2. Maybe this will finally get them out of the trees and out of the path of lumber companies.

    We have district heating in some communities here in Sweden. It works well. Outlying homes are of course not connected to district heating but neither are they connected to municipal sewage or water in some cases.

    Growing up in NYC I learned of the residential & commercial steam heating system from the Con-Edison power plants. It seems to me that where applicable this is a no-brainer regardless of fuel source.

  18. Good Morning, Manchester. This method was quite common i Sweden when I left the country in 1989. I understand the techinques and economy of this way of heating our homes have improved essentially since then. They are also doing it down here in Western Australia. Good Luck. But I think the climate change will still go on whatever yo do. Jorgen

  19. A reality check for wood energy in the UK would be to ask how many acres of forest would be required, taking into account that there would have to be as many years worth of acreage as the years required to grow the trees? All of that forest would also need constant management as a failure could be a problem. Thus, there should be a significant amount of spare acreage just in case. This is a lot of real estate.

    They also seem to think that it will be easy and cheap to burn all of the high sulfur wood – it would be about as high sulfur as you can get. Would the chips need drying?

    It’s just my impression that England is a bit short on trees and 4.5% of the energy needed is not all that much for the acreage and management required.

  20. The alarmists are all going YEAH! That is because most of them live in Boulder Colorado backed up with mountain upon mountain of trees. Go for it Boulder! ( Just don’t complain when the mountains are not so majestic with new tiny trees. )

  21. “A radical new heating system where homes would be heated by district centres rather than in individual households could dramatically cut the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

    Socialized heating?

  22. In the UK, willow has been promoted as a viable bio-fuel for over 30 years. As many readers have noted success of new schemes depends upon Corporations. I wonder why?

    Now we have “centralised” heating schemes.

    In reality it matters not the source but can Corporations benefit and still maintain both control and power.

    Ignoring all the mumbo jumbo, if you make your own power, you are free. There is not “cost”

    They hate that

  23. “How would that be transmitted, steam, hot water, or hot air ?
    Lotta plumbing .”

    By concentrating people into prisons,…oops I mean energy efficient/earth friendly commie blocks.

  24. Sandy says: “They seem not to be considering agricultural biomass?
    For every ton of grain harvested there are many more tons of plant left to rot.”

    Untrue. About a ton of straw is produced for every ton of grain, not “many more tons”, as you allege. As far as rotting, straw has many agricultural usages, including roughage as part of cattle diets. Some straw is plowed back into the soil. Yes, they can burn the stuff, but that is wasteful. You been hanging out at RealClimate, Sandy?

  25. I would worry about the particulate emissions (and subsequent global freezing). Works in cogen plants here in BC where you have a captive supply of waste wood and need the waste heatfor your primary process (usually pulp and paper). Using bug killed pine, of which we have vast supplies here in BC, doesn’t pass the economic sniff test as the supply of economically available wood would run out before investors got their capital back.

  26. Collectivist HVAC systems??

    100 steps backwards to Stalinesque times!

    Also, probably it is now forgotten that, after the Met forecast a mild winter of 2009 – 2010 no one was prepared, and it affected the poorest the worst.

    Pensioners having to burn books to keep warm:

    http://www.metro.co.uk/news/807821-pensioners-burn-books-for-warmth

    And they want togo back to this primitive method of heating? What about all the trees?

    This is just another nail in the coffin in the nonsensical world of that has declared CO2 bad.

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  27. Burning a tonne of wood will generate approximately (depending on the quality of wood) one mega-watt hour.

    Darlington nuclear station produces 3600 MW, with over a 90 percent capacity factor. This means it would require a 60 tonne trucke every minute to supply the equivalent power. The result would be, to replace this one nuclear station, which produces 15 percent of Ontario’s electric power, would require comforably more than the total amount of wood products produced in Ontario each year. Imagine the line of trucks going down the highway to the station. Imagine the smoke coming from the chimnies at the station.

    I don’t see wood as much of a competitor for my industry.

  28. andyscrase says:
    September 24, 2010 at 7:09 pm
    Do wind turbines burn?

    =====================

    Yeah, they do. But that smoke don’t look too healthy, LOL.

    I can smell the burning plastic from here.

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  29. I am itching for a personal testimony. I enjoy yacht racing and our boat is carbon, kevlar, mylar, dacron, fibers and epoxy resins not poly resins. We still use a clothes line and used cotton diapers on the kids at home. We take dryer lint also, place it in paper egg cartons, pour old melted crayon pieces into the 12 little cells and have a recycled fire starter for campfires on the beach.
    We can always find driftwood. Such virtue. Wood is not workable for housing heat until it has turned into oil or coal and we harvest the natural gas from the stuff. Firewood is high in moisture content.

  30. I’ve heard about schemes like this. They require something of the order of 50,000 acres of high density woodland (Probably Birch or Willow) for a 500MW plant. That’s over 78 Square miles, or an area 13 miles by 6 in a constant 20 year rotation coppice / dry / replant cycle. Each area of fuel being cut or coppiced and / or replanted every 20 years, then drying the wood before burning requiring at least six months in drying stacks before it is ready for burning to produce power.

    If the plant is situated close to an urban area for a district heating project, then that means significant trucking costs, not to mention emissions, to get the fuel where it is needed. Sounds to me a little like losing on the carbon roundabout exactly what you gain on the swings.

  31. Biomass is great for those in the wood and trucking businesses. It’s far less energy dense, so you need a lot of it. Truckload after truckload, day and night. People tend not to like that very much, so it’s best they not know ahead.
    Even if there are local sources, they tend to dry up, and you end up trucking greater and greater distances, which becomes expensive fast.
    The Green Industry is quite the scam. It’s the ratepayers who get screwed, of course.

  32. This, “Radical New Heating Method,” statement is amazing to me. Welcome back to the 19th Century. This method of steam production was common as dirt back when people were smart enough to make use of what they had, i.e. coal, oil and wood waste. My grandfather was a foreman at a large sawmill for many decades. This plant dated from the mid-1880′s. The means of production was the same until the plant was forced to close in the 1970′s.
    What they did was take the sawdust that was produced during the cutting process and then burned it to make steam which then ran the power plant for the whole mill. It was totally self contained. They produced all the electricity they needed to run the machines and light the place. But I guess we are now so much more advanced than our forefathers we threw out everything they had already figured out and then take credit in rediscovering this amazing process all over again. Modern people who constantly attempt invalidate the accomplishments of the past sometimes really crack me up.

  33. In Iceland, they use the waste heat from geo-thermal power generation to heat their homes. Now that efficient.

    All they need to do now is for their communities to take control, so that its their power.

    Notice that in all these brilliant schemes, it is the poor that suffer.

  34. The UK does have an unlimited supply of trees nearby. It’s called Canada. It’s “nearby” due to scale. They can load up the barges in Northern Canada, or like the old days and tie the trunks into massive rafts, then haul them on the short route across the ice-free Arctic Ocean on the way to Jolly Old England. No problems.

  35. There’s a trash to energy plant a couple miles from me, they had an open house a few years ago, interesting place. The local high school put in a wood burning central heating system that is so clean it puts out less smoke than a single residential wood stove.

    The PSNH Schiller Station on the seacoast was converted from coal to wood, it’s likely the one in the diagram above. They’ve looked into and are probably burning waste cacao shells from the Lindt chocolate factory nearby. The plant certainly counts as the equivalent of a coal fired plant closing, but the replacement isn’t as “green” (supposedly) as wind et al which haven’t been able to replace a coal fired station yet.

    NH is some 84% forest, second only to Maine at 90%. So yeah, we have lots of trees and wood waste. The rate of wood heat in the winter varies with fuel cost, the last couple of years has more people burning wood.

    http://www.psnh.com/Energy/Renewables/CleanEnergy/advancerenewables.asp has more, including some of the wind stuff that they don’t put any numbers on.

  36. Its a very cunning plan isnt it? More cunning than a fox planning a chicken heist and using the most cunning tricks known to foxhood.

    There is a tiny problem with this very cunning plan though, carbon dioxide is a harmless trace gas and a most beneficial gas to the planet’s life forms. More CO2=more life and when you subtract the ridiculous assertion the CO2 is a harmful and dangerous pollutant then what is left?
    Apart from that tiny flaw the plan is flawless and perfect.

  37. Re: William

    Modern people who constantly attempt invalidate the accomplishments of the past sometimes really crack me up.

    But the reverse can be true. Look at windmills. Superceded by more reliable, higher energy power sources but we’re ignoring that history. And we can’t even convert the new ones into quaint character homes, unless being a stylite comes back into fashion.

    NY’s steam system is probably a neat example of how this has worked, but it’s only really practical for new builds given the infrastructure needed to pipe steam or hot water. Unless there’s some incentive or customer demand, that’s not going to happen given the extra costs. On the right density new development, combination of domestic waste incineration and topped up with wood might work, but nationally it doesn’t scale. Friday’s UK peak demand was 41,1165MW, so at 1tonne/hr, that’s an awful lot of wood needed to make a dent in demand.

  38. 2 things, how can they know that all the co2 from the burning of the wood will be absorbed the next growing season. Also didn’t the worst of the killer London fogs
    happen when they were burning wood so they changed to coal and reduced the amount other byproducts of burning carbon?

  39. “Realising that potential could result in savings of 18 Mt of carbon dioxide every year, which is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions associated with around 2.7 million households.”

    To save 18 Mt of co2 you would have to burn enough wood to create 18 Mt of co2. I hate when thy don’t including some common pertinent data that makes any real sense. Let’s see, how many average trees does it take to make 18 million tonnes of co2? And I don’t recall how much an average tree weighs or how many trees in an average forest. Humph… ☺

    But, from that you could tell how many forests England would have to cut down, burn, and plant each year. Is this really about immigration?

  40. One of the reasons I like coming here is because the skeptics tend to shoot first and ask questions later. Makes for lively discussions, thats for sure. Having said that, well, this is one time that the skeptics just might be wrong. I volunteer on our local economic development board and we have been spending a fair amount of time and effort aimed at developing a local biomass supply chain. Our intent is to use a local shorthaul railroad to deliver a variety of biomass materials to the district heating plant in St. Paul MN. Their website is here: http://www.districtenergy.com/

    Minnesota has lots of wood products and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul have extensive urban forests that constantly need trimming and a place to use the wood. Even with all that biomass available there is still need for more. We are working on collecting and shipping farm products such as corncobs. Ag products offer a renewable source of energy, and its true that people actually get jobs driving trucks, running chippers and generally making a living off of energy plants like this. The truth is that biomass can be competitive with most forms of energy in the right place, and yeah, its local, so what? Who wrote the book that said only coal, nuclear or hydro is the only viable source of energy that could be used on a large scale? Nobody up here in the Northland would listen to them anyway.

    As part of our investigations a group traveled to Sweden to see some state of the art woodburners. When the Swedes came here to see if they could sell some of their smokeless woodburners we were surprised to find that Sweden needs to import wood pellets to meet their heating needs. Gee, guess which countries export wood pellets to Sweden? The Canadians lead the way but the US wasn’t far behind.

    The fact that the folks in the UK want to try what is a widely used system really shouldn’t be a surprise, because this is what communities do. Take care of themselves, innovate and use local resources to generally make life better. Its too bad they have to use the global warming scam to justify it, but if they figure out a system that works for them, who are we to judge?

  41. @wayne September 24, 2010 at 6:58 pm:

    The alarmists are all going YEAH! That is because most of them live in Boulder Colorado backed up with mountain upon mountain of trees. Go for it Boulder! ( Just don’t complain when the mountains are not so majestic with new tiny trees. )

    My first reaction was my memory that when I lived in Denver in the mid-1970s in the winter there was always a “brown smog” hanging over the entire area, that you could see very clearly from elevated locations as a film about 1000 feet above the ground. While I was there it was announced that they had finally figured out what caused the brown smog. What was it? All the tens of thousands of romantic, back-to-the-earth wood-burning stoves.

    @Dan Evens September 24, 2010 at 7:41 pm:

    Burning a tonne of wood will generate approximately (depending on the quality of wood) one mega-watt hour.

    Darlington nuclear station produces 3600 MW, with over a 90 percent capacity factor. This means it would require a 60 tonne trucke every minute to supply the equivalent power. The result would be, to replace this one nuclear station, which produces 15 percent of Ontario’s electric power, would require comfortably more than the total amount of wood products produced in Ontario each year. Imagine the line of trucks going down the highway to the station. Imagine the smoke coming from the chimnies at the station.

    That eliminates the traffic of all those trucks. An average truck would be about 20-30 tonnes. A 60-tonne truck? Wow, they would be replacing the road surface every year. So, multiply the truck count by 2 or 3. That is one truck every 20-30 seconds. They couldn’t even get them in position to dump them that fast. The logistics of this are horrible, all told. Do they feed entire tree trunk logs? If not, count all the energy to cut them into burnable-sized chunks. They’d need the equivalent of a massive lumber mill just to do that.

    If they wanted any transporting efficiencies at all, trucks would drop their load in the outskirts. They would then use a tunnel with a huge conveyor, reaching from WAY out to the plant, literally feeding the wood off the conveyor into the burners. The tunnel wouldn’t be cheap to build, but moving 20 tonne trucks in and out of the city is VERY inefficient and wasteful. Conveyors for mass movement are MUCH more energy-efficient.
    Bruce Cobb September 24, 2010 at 7:45 pm:

    Biomass is great for those in the wood and trucking businesses. It’s far less energy dense, so you need a lot of it. Truckload after truckload, day and night. People tend not to like that very much, so it’s best they not know ahead.

    See the previous reply in this comment.

    Even if there are local sources, they tend to dry up, and you end up trucking greater and greater distances, which becomes expensive fast.

    We were taught that that is what did in Rome, that they used up all the available trees. That, along with the lead pipes and the coup d’etat by Julius Caesar which turned the Republic into an empire. (But we are on our way down Rome’s road, so why not go whole hog?)
    How many trees does it take to heat Europe or the U.S.? Not to mention the other 3 billion people who need heating?

    To the people who worry about emissions from stacks, I 100% guarantee there will be oxidizers on the stacks. I used to design just such equipment. But to be efficient, they need to burn hotter than wood will get, meaning natural gas to clean up the emissions. THAT heat can be recovered to a decent degree, BTW.

    And one comment on the communal heat distribution: All those ducts/pipes are going to lose heat, no matter how well insulated. I’d figure an average of 35% losses from plant to each home. AND THEY ARE UGLY. They either have to be off the ground (more infrastructure costs), or in the ground (WAY more infrastructure costs) competing with sewers and cables and gas lines. WHAT A NIGHTMARE.

    This doesn’t get my vote, even though it can be made to work in SOME places. But wood is NOT an efficient heat source – too low of energy density. Does the UK want to see clear-cutting of these timber areas? And where will they be located?

    So many holes in this plan. TYPICAL IVORY TOWER THINKING – throw out a basic principle, without taking into account all the problem areas. . . solve one problem by creating 5 more.

  42. @Wayne -
    Also, dude, the trees behind Boulder, CO are all softwood trees – pine and fir. They are NOT good for energy density. Hardwood trees are what is needed. I think that is the biggest fallacy in this whole plan. Hardwoods grow slowly. Softwoods grow quickly, but they burn too fast, so you end up using WAY more wood. So, whatever numbers anyone churns on this, they need to consider what KIND of trees.

    And ravaging the Rocky mountains? Fat chance!

    This plan has ZERO chance. Look at that diagram. It leaves out the process of turning the trees into chips. THAT plant – where is it? How much energy does IT use? And then trucking the chips? What idiot would do that? You CONVEY the chips on conveyors.

    But what is magical about this? Moving the mass of trees costs energy and money. Moving ANY weight from point A to points B, C and D is, technically, doing WORK (in the physics sense), and all work uses energy. If they’ve run the numbers on this, I’d love a look at them.

  43. This is a retread of old ideas. Not that being a retread is bad, what can I say, I have been one for years now. (My consulting company, Retread Resources Ltd. was founded in 1992) It was not followed up on in the 70′s when it was last popular and probably won’t go very far this time either. Alberta has an abundance of very low sulfur coal. We will gladly sell it. Wood is much better used for making paper and building houses. Waste wood products can easily be combined with coal in a cost effective and rational way, unless you have a glut of cheep natural gas. (Alberta sells that too)

  44. Oh the irony! The UK chopped down most of their oak trees many decades ago to build sailing ships to fight the French. Now France provides the UK with most of its electricity from their nuclear generators. :-)

  45. Atomic Hairdryer,
    Thanks for the comment. I agree with you 100% and in a back handed way you make the same point. In the name of being progressive. These green advocates have a disdain for our industrial past and what was discovered during that time period, because; to them Capitalism and Free Enterprise created all of those horrible factories with those evil smoke stacks so anything associated with that has to be discredited and thrown out for this green Utopian vision that to them is, “progressive.” Then all they do is turn around and try to do over in this instance what was already well understood and done before and say it is something that is now new and desirable, with the caveat of course that is up to the Central Planners to reinvent a new wheel that is far less efficient than the old wheel in their New Totalitarian World Order scenario. Somehow, I find that darkly humorous and ironic.

  46. Here in Germany, we have a lot of municipal cogeneration plants where the steam is used for community heating. You have to live in a street that is connected to the system if you want to use that; not every street is connected. Makes sense for high density urban housing; with a coal- or gas-fired plant.

    Wood is predominantly used by rural and suburban dwellers who have easy local access to it.

    The economics of wood as a heating fuel of course get improved when you slap on fines on the use of other energy sources, like it is done in Germany.

    Books are also not a terrific fuel but when they’re cheap enough…

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/01/05/shades-of-fahrenheit-451-british-retirees-burning-books-to-stay-warm/

  47. They do this is Russia.

    But just don’t do it the Russian way. There was no way of reducing the hot water input into my Russian flat, so the only way to regulate the temperature was by opening the window. Minus 27 outside, and every flat in our district had a window open.

    This is not a way to reduce energy consumption.

    Oh, and tap hot water was equally free. So the usual method of washing up involved keeping the hot tap running for 2 or three hours (no washing-up liquid available, so hot running water sufficed).

    This is not a way to reduce energy consumption.

  48. Wonderful. Where are they going to get all the wood necessary to warm the homes of more than sixty million people? Since the UK purse contains nothing but dead moths and expenses grubbing politicians, where is the money going to come from to build these stations? Oh wait…

    I have a wood burning stove because, like DirkH has already noted, I am a rural dweller who has easy access to fuel. Heating my home this way is hundreds of pounds cheaper than paying gas bills. What’s the betting my bills will sky rocket if the government takes that choice out of my hands.

  49. >>>Let me get this straight…. we burn wood, one of the best and
    >>>cheapest ways to sequester carbon on the planet,

    Growing trees to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide is a nonsense. What do we do with the wood, once the tree is fully grown?

    a. Burn it – CO2 back in the atmosphere
    b. Use it for building. Building is replaced after 100 years, wood burned, CO2 back in the atmosphere.
    c. Bury the wood. Fungi attack it, and CO2 back in the atmosphere.

    Growing trees does not reduce atmospheric CO2 in the long-term.

  50. Lowell its the C02 thing that keeps getting people here riled up here, not so so much the burning of biomass. Hey don’t we need C02 to grow the biomass.

  51. Oh, and one little fly in the ointment of the Manchester University pipe-dream. Britain does not have any trees to cut down.

    At present, we are trying to create forests, because they have all been destroyed. But these are leisure forests, not for commercial logging. If a chain-saw touched one these trees, there would be an international protest, and questions asked at the U.N..

    http://www.nationalforest.org/forest/

    This is a statue of the average Greeny – wanting things both ways.

  52. Sounds good, BUT, what about heat loss between generator and domestic property? This has to be something as there is no such thing as the perfect insulator. Also I thought we had centralized energy generation- coal fired and natural gas power stations.

  53. But if they didn’t cut down the trees they would remain as CO2 sinks, increasing their take of CO2 as they continue to grow. The logical answer is to harvest them only when they die of old age, when their moisture content would also be lower than when alive – that is, if you believe in the deadly potential of CO2.

  54. Centralised systems can NEVER be as efficient as individual systems because the latter have no transmission losses (to their own premises); and, a central system has to be time/temperature controlled for the ‘worst case’ – i.e every offtake needing heat.

  55. Twenty years ago I lved in a block of 12 town houses that had one boiler, that served all twelve houses. The cost was divided twelve ways. I noted that my neighbours left the heating on “max” and opened the windows when their homes got too warm.

    I campaigned to leave the “Combine” and fitted my own boiler; our heating costs HALVED!

    With district heating is there an easy way to measure the heat used by each property?

  56. I don’t see any numbers in this PR release. Cost to build and operate the heating plant and acres of trees needed per unit of output are two important ones.

    An announcement that fails to make supporting documents and information available on-line is worthless. Media that simply parrot the “news” have equal value.

  57. Wait ’til the wood rationing starts.

    [Best Oliver Twist voice] “Please, sir. May I have another twig for the fire?”

  58. This is not a plan by any reasonable definition of the word, but a fantasy. A while ago, there was talk of replacing the electric meters in every home in the UK with smart meters, which, unsurprisingly, lead to arguments about cost. If it’s going to cost so much to refit electric meters, how the heck do they figure it’s ok to somehow, connect the UK’s 30 million homes to some, as yet unspecified network of pipes conveying all that energy from community heating stations which haven’t even been built? How many millions of tons of steel pipe will be consumed in the process? And the only rationale for doing this is supposedly to save CO2 emissions. And I am forced to wonder if the actual savings will turn out to be as elusive as the savings from windfarms and biofuels?

    The definition of madness is to repeat the same mistakes over and over and over.

  59. @ feet2thefire says:
    September 24, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    You make a good point about hardwoods. The other thing to consider is the price of hardwood. Even common rough sawn red oak costs ~ $3 and up per board foot. Other hardwoods are much higher. Walnut goes for $6/bf and up. I don’t know any sane person who would sell it for firewood by the ton, when it’s far more valuable as lumber for furniture, etc.

  60. I see that the 50MW PSNH wood plant in Portsmouth NH cost $70m, uses 400k tons (most sourced locally, they say) per year, and most importantly, is worth 300k RECs (renewable energy certificates) per year. These RECs get sold to other power generators, state and local governments and organizations wishing to “green up”. So, as a paying PSNH customer, I wish to thank the many others helping to pay for this plant (though I have no doubt our own state is doing so as well). It just does a heart good to have everyone pitch in this way.
    Green is like a giant Ponzi scheme. Without those RECs the plant never would have been built.

  61. I don’t really have a problem with the broader concept here, but I would think this better for high density population centres only.

    Plus, in addition to central heat and water, community kitchens could reduce food wastage. Also, neighborhood “bathing” facilities could further increase efficiency by reducing water consumption. 100 to 125 persons can be encouraged to bathe together. All will file into shower room, then close doors and turn on the gas water. Bodies People then exit shower and are processed dried by huge rotating knives blow driers. Protein Residents are then packaged dressed in recycled paper containers clothes to further reduce waste.

    Remember, eat local!

  62. We are about to send millions of dollars worth of new stoves to places that burn wood and dung for cooking, to replace those inefficient dirty wood and dung stoves with something else–bottled gas maybe? Is there a disconnect here?

  63. @CuriousGeorge While the hardwood is not a good source, the byproducts are not bad but are certainly limited. I heat in winter partially through the use of a pellet stove that is fired by hardwood sawdust pellets. The sawdust and wood chips created in manufacturing hardwood products is collected and “rabbit food” pellets can be created from it. Not very competitive against gas at $4 but a lot cheaper than gas at $16. My stove is a fireplace insert, so it has the added benefit of a fire in the fireplace without the attended heat loss.

    In the early 1990s, Central Maine Power was forced to buy “cogen” from the various pulp and paper plants in Maine at a price higher than they were allowed to sell it. Needless to say, this eventually drove them to file a bankruptcy.

    Wood fired heating and generation are ok under some circumstances. It depends on the infrastructure and the availability of waste wood that would otherwise go into a landfill. A pleasant niche solution under some but not all circumstances.

  64. Ralph says:
    September 25, 2010 at 12:55 am
    >>>Let me get this straight…. we burn wood, one of the best and
    >>>cheapest ways to sequester carbon on the planet,

    Growing trees to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide is a nonsense. What do we do with the wood, once the tree is fully grown?

    a. Burn it – CO2 back in the atmosphere
    b. Use it for building. Building is replaced after 100 years, wood burned, CO2 back in the atmosphere.
    c. Bury the wood. Fungi attack it, and CO2 back in the atmosphere.

    Growing trees does not reduce atmospheric CO2 in the long-term.
    —————–
    30 years, Ralph, 30 years.
    If you can hold your breath for 30 years, we’ll have a bona fide climate trend that you can take to the bank.

  65. In Germany, Ausrtria and Switzerland automated wood pallet burners have become the latest “Green” fashion.

    Despite compression of the pallets the volume needed compared to a comparable calorific volume of coal is a factor two.

    You simply need a lot of wood that has to be grown, harvested, processed and distributed.
    The wood pallet industry started as a recycling initiative of waste wood from saw mills. Today the pallet wood has to be imported and nobody can tell if that wood is from “sustainable resources” or delivered by the Russian Mafia.

    Using big wood burners for regional heating projects, without any doubt cause a surge of heat losses via the pipelines.

    I think this concept is not suitable for big scale application, simply because the numbers don’t add up.

    The ideal fuel for heating and electricity generation is natural gas and we have so much of this stuff that we don’t even need to go nuclear.

    Let’s go crazy on alternatives if we have real solutions.

    When Philips II from Spain started the 80 year war and build his “Armada” no three was left standing.

    I have no objections against any burning of wood but as a replacement for fossil fuels
    the entire plan is madness.

  66. @ ShrNfr says:
    September 25, 2010 at 6:51 am

    I know many people, especially in the New England area, who use the pellet stove’s or woodburning inserts. Many are woodworkers who heat their shops this way with cutoffs from projects. Tops, branches, stumps, etc. are fine for this (although there is growing competition from the cellulosic ethanol industry for that feed stock ), and as you say it is a very limited supply, which requires the tree to be cut down in any event.

    I have some acreage in wood, and from a wood producers perspective I look to get the best price for my product, be it pulp, lumber, etc. If I can profit from the trash that’s a bonus, however a significant issue with stumps, etc. is the cost of harvesting it which includes cleaning tons of dirt & rocks off ( don’t get paid for dirt ). Unless I can make a reasonable profit, I’ll just let it rot. :)

  67. Hmmm … burning trees for heat. Somebody kick me. I seem to be in a mental rut about people in Africa contributing to desertification by burning everything they can collect so that they can cook food and survive the chilly nights.

    Take a look at the massive forests in Western Europe. Most of which have regrown after being decimated when wood was a primary source of heating.

    As for community heating, I’m reminded of the experience in the GDR (East Germany) where during winter, one could easily tell which were the heating pipes leading to the soul-less, Stalinist apartment blocks. Much of the heating went into melting snow and ice, above and below the pipes.

    In the West, I sometimes helped to split wood and to stack it in readiness for winter. I remember that there were 3 or 4 stacks; each about 1.5 metres in diameter and 2 metres tall. One of them was always “drying” IIRC and the others were needed to run the big stove and the copper boiler for washing and bathing throughout the winter. That was the 1960′s. It could’ve been the 1860′s except that there was electric lighting, a refrigerator, freezer and a television.

  68. According to:

    http://www.census.gov/apsd/cqc/cqc27.pdf

    For the USA – “Surprisingly, wood still was used as the main heating fuel in 11 percent of the housing units in nonmetro areas, compared with 2 percent in metro areas.”

    According to:

    http://www.woodheat.org/why/theargument.htm

    “Almost 3.2 million Canadian households burn wood in fireplaces, stoves and furnaces. This number represents 26 percent of all households. In Ontario, the popularity of wood burning is well below the national average, with only 21 percent, or about 940,000 households burning wood. Still, millions of Ontarians and millions more people across Canada build wood fires for heat and enjoyment each winter. By any measure, wood is an important residential energy resource, especially in rural areas.”

    Wood is already providing significant rural heat. I am nervous with the idea of fueling cities via our forests. They already supplied the lumber to build them and the paper that keeps them running. Displacing food crops for biomass is no better. Crop residue is needed for healthy, friable soil. Seaweed is relatively untapped but may contain more unintended consequences. GK

  69. The irony here is that a large segment of the “green” lobby industry does not want you to cut any trees for any reason. Irony two is that it is sometimes claimed that we can obtain the wood needed for burning from “waste” but wood waste at the mill is already used for particle board and burned at mills to generate energy and “waste” wood at the logging site is being legally bound to be left of the ground to protect biodiversity (besides being horribly expensive to harvest, being branches or stumps for example). Irony three is that competition for wood will raise it’s price (econ 101) and therefore the cost of paper and lumber — ie. it is not free. Irony four is that England is importing wood chips from the USA, so they can avoid the complaints about cutting trees.

  70. Blimey, burning wood to keep us warm. Brilliant! Never thought of that. What is the really astonishing thing is that this is hailed as such a breakthrough. It is such a no brainer.

  71. Pellet stoves are run by electricity, right. At least the ones I have seen. So when the power goes out? I have a gas furnace and fireplace. The fireplace can run with electricity but I do have a small generater to power the furnace and a few lights. Globull warming has not hit my area yet so at 30 below I like to have backup.

  72. R. de Haan says:
    September 25, 2010 at 7:15 am
    “In Germany, Ausrtria and Switzerland automated wood pallet burners have become the latest “Green” fashion.”

    Pellet, not pallet.

    BTW, some commenters have mentioned natural gas as the best solution. I agree for the moment. But just for fun i googled hydrates and combined the search with Shell, BP et.al.

    It looks like there are some projects underway to exploit methane hydrates from permafrost and from the ocean shelfs… GM, if you’re listening… don’t hold your breath for peak anything yet…

  73. Oh, and the automated pellet burners clog up frequently due to breakage. Save a little on heating fuel (well, that was before cheap natgas), and spend a *LOT* on repairs.

  74. Many communities in the USA have been there and done that and moved on to other systems. Google finds 263,000 titles for “community heating USA” Even the systems that were coal or gas fired mostly went the way of the mammoth by the 1930s. Don’t know why, but maintenance costs and inability to accommodate new building probably ranked high, along with the host of reasons cited by posters above. Here in the US the tree huggers ain’t gonna let it happen if it means cutting down trees or even harvesting dead ones. Personally, if this idea gains traction, I’m going to purchase the patent for buggy whips and get in that business.

  75. feet2thefire says:
    September 24, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    … While I was there it was announced that they had finally figured out what caused the brown smog. What was it? All the tens of thousands of romantic, back-to-the-earth wood-burning stoves.

    @ feet2thefire says:
    September 24, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    Wayne – Also, dude, the trees behind Boulder, CO are all softwood trees – pine and fir. They are NOT good for energy density. Hardwood trees are what is needed. I think that is the biggest fallacy in this whole plan. Hardwoods grow slowly. Softwoods grow quickly, but they burn too fast, so you end up using WAY more wood. So, whatever numbers anyone churns on this, they need to consider what KIND of trees.
    And ravaging the Rocky mountains? Fat chance!

    Boy, you hit in right on the nose, feet2thefire. I just thought those in Boulder would jump all over the idea (sarc) and here’s a little story of what prompted that comment, this goes way back.

    You said Denver/Boulder in the 70′s. I remember that highway patrol tower at the interstate intersection you could barely see if you were not within a couple of miles from it for the haze.

    That was also the same “vacation” when I got to know what an eco-crazy sounds like up close, turned out to be a whole bunch of them, and a whole weekend. Lordy, lordy have mercy and protect us… from them! When they started talking of “getting political” I had a feeling then that trouble may lay down the road of time. Now it is 2010 and guess what!

    I’m all for this on a very local scale of this idea if the soot is also handled. Small towns with excess material, wood or otherwise, great, if they can import waste from elsewhere, great. I’m a conservationalist, if it’s managed right and makes sense maximizes resources, I’m usually for it. But liquid fluoride thorium reactors seem a real possible answer for the long run. I’ve read of the other thorium designs and that one seems the safest and totally efficient. Seems India just might beat us to it and I’m happy for them if they succeed. India seem the country with is developing the most innovative experimental reactor designs today.

    Let’s see, India becomes the leading developed nation, the West becomes third-world and burns the trees above Boulder to stay warm and whoa, who did this? Déjà vu. Might all come down to the fact that those mentioned above couldn’t have the entire mountain for themselves and mankind was somehow encroaching on “their privacy” and they were going to do everything in their power to stop “it”. I always thought “it” was “all of the neighbors moving in”, but, maybe, just maybe I was wrong and they really meant “mankind”. May never know.

    So would Boulder and its ecofriendly populous with plenty of wood we now know is very ecofriendly though soft take this very real and green alternative? Your right, never. Would they go for everyone else doing it? Probably, as long as we don’t touch their mountains and trees. And a tiny wee bit of me, is that on my right shoulder or left shoulder, that thinks cutting Boulders foot-hill trees down for warmth would be a great and good learned lesson for a bunch who live there above Boulder but, there’s really no reason for them or anyone else to suffer if we’ll just be smart now, this time around, and time is short.

    I like the majestic mountains of Colorado too. So, Boulder bunch, you’re forgiven. I hope you have forgiven the neighbors that moved in on “your mountain” and have also stopped targeting other people who live on this world too with your very narrow view of this world.

    Hardwood? For me the hardwood trees should be for affordable fine homes and furniture and, if co2 bother you, where it’s sequestered for decades if not centuries and maybe we could instead just burn the —- sawdust that is used today to make “furniture” and “homes” that are good to last a decade or two, one week if you ever get them wet, and a wish that for once humanity might make some real sensible progress. It’s there for us to do if we can just get the people’s views out of the way that stand in the way.

    There, finally got that off my chest. Now if they can just stop that mantra.

  76. This community heating has been in use for decades in Finland. There is a chemical plant few miles from our house and it’s cooling system is integrated to a closed water system. This and lots of similar constructions provide quite a large portion of my home city’s heating. Lately there has been a move away from community heating. That “waste heat” has become increasingly expensive and more efficent alternative heating schemes have popped up.

    Helsinki (The capital. Population 580’000) is one of the few cities in Finland in which the Green Party has a significant representation. Because of this, they have planned to start producing their energy by burning renewable wood. But there is problem.

    Finland is sparsely populated, relatively large country (area and population similar to Arizona), with 86% of the land area being forests. Yet to produce the energy the city needs would require burning enough wood to equal the entire growth of the forest from the entire area of Finland. The emissions from transportation alone would be gigantic.

    Now if this kind of system is not practical for a country with relatively small population and large forests near by, I have to be extremely sceptical about the practicality of using it elsewhere.

    Also this kind of system is not renewable if the nurtients are not returned to the forests after burning. After a few decades tree growth would start to slow down and eventually stop. Transporting the ash back to the forests would increase the cost even more.

  77. @ Bernd Felsche September 25, 2010 at 8:02 am:

    …Take a look at the massive forests in Western Europe. Most of which have regrown after being decimated when wood was a primary source of heating.

    In 2001 I was vacationing in the NW corner of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, in the town of Manistee, along the shores of Lake Michigan. On a guided boat tour our guide talked about how in the 1800s there was a wide swath of clear cut trees clean across the entire state, to Lake Huron. The population of the state was only 756,000 in 1860; 1,050,000 in 1870; and a bit over 2,000,000 in 1900.

    (Fortunately they began reforestation efforts and the state is 90% trees now.)

    For anyone to think that even 10% of the UK’s 62 million people can heat with trees – that is just wrong-headed. Within 10 years, there wouldn’t be a stray match left in the country.

    Michigan, with its forests, would be a helluva lot better candidate for this.

    But I wouldn’t recommend it. Not with 5-10 times the population of when they tried it the first time.

    This whole idea reeks of the corn-biofuel mess of a few years ago. All I could see then were the problems it would create – all of which came to pass.

    Ivory tower stupidity…

  78. I’m having a little trouble here with the idea that burning wood reduces emissions.

    ‘ Heating homes with wood reduces greenhouse gas emissions because plants and trees absorb carbon dioxide when they are growing and then re-release it when they are burnt for heating – so the only increase in greenhouse gas emissions are those involved in things like harvesting and processing the fuel.’ and ‘ including imported forest residues and local grown energy crops, would reduce emissions and save on fossil fuels.’

    Burning carbon produces CO2. No way around it. What burns in the wood is carbon. If we didn’t burn the wood, it would live for years and years–absorbing CO2– or, if dead (dead trees or sawdust) slowly slowly degrade in the natural environment, slowly releasing CO2.

    Burning wood increases CO2 emissions over NOT burning the wood. Not burning the wood reduces CO2 — burning increases CO2. Nothing wrong with burning sawmill waste, I used to heat my house that way, burning log slabwood (the rounded edges cut off logs when milling lumber). Cheap heat but certainly no reduction in CO2! Does save burning natural gas or fuel oil though.

    The whole premise is silly.

  79. Oops, I think Patty forgot that when a tree has been cut down for fuel, it is no longer available to absorb carbon dioxide.

  80. Of course since the distribution of heating/cooling would be centralized your house may very well be regulated by someone who determines that 45degrees in the winter and 98degrees in the summer is all you deserve, Citizen!!!

    All Hail the Central Committee….

  81. I’m laughing at the commenters here who think that burning wood releases CO2, but letting the trees rot on the ground doesn’t. City folks, I’m guessing. Where I live, there’s a pretty much unlimited supply of dead pine trees since the environmentalists won’t allow spraying for pine beetles. Either we burn them for heat, or they decompose. Either way, the carbon is released to the atmosphere.

    Several of my neighbors heat their homes and hot water with wood furnaces located near their homes. Myself, I just use my Rumford fireplace.

  82. From: DirkH on September 25, 2010 at 9:39 am

    R. de Haan says:
    September 25, 2010 at 7:15 am
    “In Germany, Ausrtria and Switzerland automated wood pallet burners have become the latest “Green” fashion.”

    Pellet, not pallet.

    Thanks for mentioning that, it actually sounded sort of reasonable as “pallet.” There are more people using “outdoor furnaces” burning anything from logs to paper waste, with sources of scrap wood like discarded shipping crates and old pallets actively scavenged for. Firing a small power/heat plant with a steady supply of unneeded pallets didn’t sound that bad. The “compression of the pallets” part was a bit of a comprehension hangup, although you can certainly break up or cut up a pallet and the remains occupy less space.

    Oh, and as an adjunct to wood pellet burners, similar models burning corn were becoming more popular. Yup, corn, dried and right off the cob, people were burning food because it was that cheap. Then the bio-fuels craze hit and corn prices doubled or more… ☻

  83. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    September 25, 2010 at 4:44 pm
    “[...]Thanks for mentioning that, it actually sounded sort of reasonable as “pallet.” There are more people using “outdoor furnaces” burning anything from logs to paper waste, with sources of scrap wood like discarded shipping crates and old pallets actively scavenged for. ”

    Same in Germany. Don’t let my brother in the proximity of disused pallets… they’ll be gone. It’s not automatic, but he’ll happily burn them in his stove.

  84. How come:

    burning wood from trees – OK
    burning wood from coal – Not OK.

    this is a joke – our local sugar mill burns the cane fibre as Biomass and calls itself a Green power station.

    Before they used to compost the fibre and put it back into the soil as a high quality fertiliser. It was called bagasse and the carbon in the cane fibre was sequestered back into the soil. I used to get a trailer load for my garden every spring, anything would grow in it.

    So now they make fertiliser out of oil and put it on the cane fields and burn the cane fibre and call it green biomass. Someone’s pulling someone’s leg.

    am I missing something?

  85. There’s at least one of these systems in Italy, but it uses sawdust and woods chips from a lumber mill and furniture factories.

    In the town of Parma the idea was to use residual heat from a garbage-fuelled power station for public heating system; a considerable length of insulated pipe has been laid underground and users would have a specific meter to measure the influx of hot water and pay accordingly. However, there are vehement protests against the waste power station, so I don’t know what will happen.

  86. Pete says: Biomass is for energy production is unsustainable. Outside of tropical zones, no one is able to display any truly workable product/methodology

    These folks:

    http://www.treepower.org/yields/main.html

    are getting 30 to 60 tons / acre for 2nd year growth (so ought to rise in the following few years) of cottonwood and Eucalyptus (respectively) in Florida. More “subtropical” than tropical…

    There were also some folks in Sweden getting similar yields in a power from wood operation (though I’ve lost the link right now).

    It’s actually fairly reasonable. You don’t cut down existing forest, you farm new ones. Turns out the wood pulp industry already has discovered that fastest growth is in the firs 5 years or so; so it’s better to plant trees like corn rather than like a forest.

    I once figure out that to cover ALL my energy needs would take about the amount of land on my lot. So not that much really. Though I think the better idea is to run all the yard waste, paper and plastic trash, etc through the power plant. Basically, use the wood for something first, then burn it…

  87. RE: Bruce Cobb says:
    September 25, 2010 at 4:37 am

    I have no problem with using wood to generate electricity, and also using the resultant steam as a byproduct-heating-source, providing it makes economic sense. However the problem with the PSNH power plant in New Hampshire is that it depends on REC’s (Renewable Energy Certificates) to make economic sense.

    Also it depends on grinding up trees in the most “economical” manner, with the word “economical” defined in a short-sighted manner. This involves grinding up the trunks of large oaks, rather than using the “slash,” which is the crooked branches left over after the trunks are used. I have a good friend who delivers truckloads of chips to the Portsmouth power plant, and he states he is appalled at the amount of good wood that is ground up.

    It should be noted that there is a very good market for oak in Japan, where oak is regarded as highly as mahogany. Tree trunks from New Hampshire often go straight to Japan. To put such trunks through a chipper seems less than wise, even in cases where the tree needs to grow ten more years before becoming lumber-sized.

    Lastly, one reason I am suspicious of economies-of-scale is that Big Business all too often has political clout which the Little Guy lacks, and all too often seeks to squeeze the Little Guy out of markets by inventing stupid laws. I do not see it as entirely impossible that Big Business might seek to make it illegal for the Little Guy to burn wood, one way or another, (perhaps claiming wood smoke is pollution, or perhaps even charging a tax or fee for cutting down a tree one has grown on ones own property, over the past forty years.)

    Around 1988 a local boom called “The Massachusetts Miracle,” (which got Dukakis nominated as the Democrat running against the first Bush,) went bust. It was called an “economic downturn” nationally, however it hit very hard in southern New Hampshire, and the population of my little town actually decreased until around 1995, as many construction workers left looking for work in other states. During that time many local folk had to fall back on burning wood, as they simply couldn’t afford their heating bills.

    Actually few living trees were cut down by the poor. There was plenty of dead wood by the roads. Roadsides, and roadside woods, became far more tidy than they now are. Some gathered wood after first asking permission from landowners, while others were “deadwood poachers,” however few complained if their woods were cleaned up.

    Seeking “heating assistance” was a waste of time for all but the elderly and frail, for the waiting-in-line for an interview tended to add up to hours, and the paperwork was exasperating: You were suppose to bring in a paystub, but many rough characters were more or less self-employed, and they were asked to bring in a signed paper from every one of their customers (in order to prove their income was what they stated.) By the time you had crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s, you had spent a couple of days running around wasting gas. It was cheaper and easier to spend the time gathering wood.

    I know about this for I was one of the rough characters, back in those days. It was a tough time to get through, especially if you were raising five children. One thing I swiftly learned was that Dukakis Democrats, moving up from Massachusetts, didn’t like unsightly woods, so I would charge them to clean their woods. Then I’d take all the dead wood home and heat my home for free. (In one case I even charged to remove an unsightly woodpile of dried-and-split oak and maple, which a lady found distasteful in her backyard, as it wasn’t stacked neatly.)

    Now twenty years have passed, and I wonder if the new generation of poor people are capable of displaying the same self-reliance. The woods are messy again, and the modern wood stoves burn wood with far less smoke. However the new poor seem far less likely to go outside, and far more likely to seek answers on computer screens.

    Self-reliance gives a real power to the individual. The old family farm enabled voters to wield an independence which people dependant on food-stamps now lack. In the same way, burning wood in an economy-of-scale may rob the Little Guy of a freedom he possessesd, when he just gathered sticks to keep his home fires burning.

  88. The range of simple, practical options is really quite varied.

    Need to clear a puzzle, I have noted any reference to growing bigger, faster, better, higher yield or quality, invokes the response “Genetic Engineering “. Why is that, its certainly not true.

    Compare the yield of say Palm oil, with corn ethanol per acre, no comparison. Those yields can easily be doubled. Imagine that. Seed, bulb/tuber/cutting/clone or mature tree makes no difference to our process.

    Hemp is a wonderful plant, we can grow 2 crops per year plus a new potato crop( ideal as Hemp kills potato bugs) plus we dont use fertiliser, biocides or herbicides. Basic production is 24 tonnes per acre per year (hemp). This can be used as fibre, plastics, paper feedstock, linen you name it. The first crop includes seed and the second crop is primarily for biomass. Whats holding us back, red tape. The process is sadly organic.

    We are also designing the hemp plant so it can be used as a sewage leakage absorber as one of our clients has a problem with septic tanks polluting his swamp. We are also working on grass to manufacture top soil. At the moment we estimate we can manufacture between six and 12 inches per year. We may end up exporting top soil!

    Where there is a will, there is a way.

  89. I can see how this can be so environmentally sound and work well for humanity. Say for instance people are used to heating for or think they need 100 days of heating… Cut the first 10 and last ten. Because the people are just wasting the heat anyway we all know it will warm up during the day, Right. You save 20% with this simple prudent step. How wonderful. You could also schedule 1 day a week “Idling” for “maintenance” saving an additional 20%. So you’ve succeed in cutting emissions 40% or so. With the only cost of a few sweaters for the whiny blokes.

  90. This kind of ‘fuel’ is totally unsustainable.

    In the UK the biggest coal-fired Powerstation, DRAX, is now being converted to burn wood chips and willow wands (I can’t believe I’m having to write this!). Just to fire two of its 11 boilers will require 70,000 tons of the stuff EVERY MONTH!!!! That’s nearly 1 million tons a year. In a few years there won’t be a tree left in England.
    In the period 1500-1750 Britain was nearly deforested through the need to manufacture charcoal for iron smelting (and ship building), saved, only just, by importing huge amounts of timber from Canada and North America – and the discovery of how to turn coal into coke.

  91. As far as the outdoor wood boilers now cropping up in peoples’ back yards , sorry; not a fan. We do not have AC, and use ventilation, cooling the house naturally at night during Summer, and in the Fall having the windows open. Very often, there is the acrid stench of wood (and I use the term loosely) smoke, from a neighbor’s OWB. We probably live about 250 feet away, but there are other homes much closer, and as close as about 50 feet or so. The smokestack stands probably about 6 feet high.
    There are relatively new regulations in this state, phased in from Aug. ’08 to Jan. 1 ’09 governing the installation and use of these things, and I highly doubt that it meets these regulations. So far, though, we have not pursued this. People don’t like to “make trouble”, especially with regard to ones’ neighbors, so it’s a bit of a sticky wicket.

  92. RE: Bruce Cobb says:
    September 26, 2010 at 7:29 am

    I agree about the OWB. However they are making them better, simply because some areas are putting in zoning laws against excessive wood smoke.

    I was looking into buying one, (they are very expensive,) and the salesman was stressing his model had an afterburner which basically removed the problem of smoke from the chimney.

    The older models belch smoke at such a low altitude, (six to eight feet,) that it gets caught under a typical inversion created by cold weather’s “radiational cooling,” and you wind up with these odd shelves of smoke undulating slowly about the neighborhood, especially on a winter morning that is very calm, and especially when fresh wood has just been added to the stove.

    The great thing is the reduction in fire insurance, when your heating is seperate from the house.

  93. One of the primary concerns about solar energy has always been how to store it for use when it’s needed. Well, folks, wood represents stored solar energy!

    Wood will always provide PART of our energy needs, and it has proven to be a very sustainable form of energy for hundreds of years. A whole lot more sustainable than wind generators, IMHO.

  94. Plants are the most efficient users and converters of sun energy. Thats exactly why we use plants as factories. Rocket science again.

  95. This would actually keep the temperature down, but not for the reasons given. It would dramatically increase aerosols in the atmosphere around population centers. Remember the famous London Fog of the Victorian era, which we now know was precipitated by the predominance of using coal for heat? Imagine the same phenomenon on a much larger scale around New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Tokyo, Moscow and Beijing, etc. It’ll cool things off alright. Maybe even bring on another mini ice age.

  96. Many larger towns and cities in the UK had coal powered versions of this years ago (Battersea for one) they were all closed when the clean air act came in. Growing trees instead of food seems a bit wasteful of land area when we don’t have lots now although the EU has some of that out of use as to keep the prices up for European farmers. This would work better with nuclear but I don’t see many wanting to live near one and the greenies would spent years trying to stop them being built. As it is the lights will start going off fairly soon anyway as the big coal stations are shut to meet green rules.
    Never mind they have just opened a new wind farm off the Kent coast so everything will be OK, HA HA.

  97. Hmmm. Waste incineration for electrical generation. If that’s so new, why was it an option in Sim City 3000 back in 99?

    That, and I’m amused by the fact that they put “bag house” in quotations like bag filters are some sort of new thing. Besides, there’s no way this would be allowed for power generation without at least a wet scrubber. Also, they obviously don’t have clue about the scales they are talking about. Ancient Romans deforested Italy so much that the erosion moved Ostia, a port city, miles inland. The power demands of modern civilization make Rome’s look like peanuts.

Comments are closed.