Biomass or Coal?

I grow trees, I also burn wood for heat and am very interested in renewable energy and global climate change.

I am very worried about the growth in the use of biomass as an energy source and trees in particular. Locally at Discovery Park they are building a Biomass energy plant, I wondered how valid this was as a means of generating renewable energy in the context of Global Climate Change plant .

Biomass power plant in Discovery Park in Sandwich to go ahead after £160 million investment

I have started with some very broad assumptions and propose to look further into the numbers to see if they are valid.

1Kg of wood is equivalent to 1.7Kg of CO2. So a tree that adds 1Kg to its mass, takes 1.7 Kg of CO2 out of the atmosphere. Equally, burning 1 Kg of wood generates 1.7Kg of CO2

The wood variously sourced from:  Virgin forest, that is where an area of existing forest that has grown naturally is cut down; Plantations where the trees have been planted specifically for commercial use; Waste Wood where the wood is regarded as unusable except for burning.

So, considering the three types of wood

Virgin Forest

These trees will be alive and growing and potentially some hundreds of years old. The mass of wood will take years, equal to the age of the tree to replace if a sapling replaces the cut wood. A living tree, in particular a large one, is also growing and taking CO2 from the atmosphere. (Follows is a guestimate) If a mature but growing tree adds say 5% to its mass each year, a 50 tonne tree will add 2.5 tonnes of wood per year. Burning that tree will add the 50 tonnes.

A sapling will grow faster, but even if it doubles in size year on year for say 5 years, that 1/2 Kg year old sapling will sequester another 1/2Kg the following year, maybe weigh 20 Kg after 10 years. As an example, think of how heavy your Christmas tree is.

Forestry Commission:Mitigation: Planting more trees

The Biomass plant at Discovery park proposes to use Virgin wood and save 100,000 Tonnes of CO2 per year. One has to assume that what they are actually saying is they are replacing 100,000 tonnes of CO2 generated from coal or gas (very old trees) with 100,000 tonnes generated from not so old trees. If the average age of the trees being burnt is say 100 years and these burnt trees are replaced by saplings to be burnt at a similar rate, ie when they are 100 years old, this plant will only reach a state of being carbon neutral in 100 years having added 10 million Tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere.

New Scientist: The renewable energy scam making global warming worse


A lot of forestry commission land is planted with conifer in serried ranks, often on moorland which hasn’t seen trees for millennia, but that aside. A commercial planted forest or coppiced woodland that is maintained and cut and replanted has to be regarded as sustainable in the same way as a farmer’s field that is used to grow crops. Virgin forest that is cut and replaced with commercial trees becomes a plantation. The main problem is the mono species, the lack of variety. Of course this can be mitigated with careful management, with islands of mixed native trees that might be left standing when the bulk of the wood is taken.   Realistically that is down to the forestry manager.

An additional concern is that the majority of plantations were established to feed the paper industry. Even with the move towards electronic publishing, there is still a massive use of paper and card. Just think of the growth in the use of cardboard simply to deliver mail order goods that used to be collected personally.

Waste Wood

There appears to be two types of waste wood. What we would regard as waste wood, old pallets, waste from manufacturing plants that use wood as a raw material, cuttings from the forestry industry. Then there is the other type where a wood or forest might be cut for commercial wood, only the best trees are usable, all other trees are thus regarded as waste. So a virgin forest might be cleared, one or two trees per acre used for the stated purpose, the rest is waste.   So, a company claiming to use waste wood and thus assuming heightened environmental standing, might well be clear felling virgin forest.

Coal / Oil or Gas versus Wood Biomass – To save the planet

Its 2018 and Global Climate Change is regarded as a NOW problem. Not in 100 years or 50 years, but NOW.  We have to work to reduce emissions now.

So, put very simply, chopping down trees and burning for energy is no more sustainable than burning coal! In fact I would suggest it is the worst possible solution as it removes an effective carbon sink that, in its mature form is removing far more CO2 than 2 foot saplings ever will – within the time-scales that are relevant.


Accuracy of the data

The data you will see on RM (Renewables Map) is certainly the most accurate available as a discrete set of data.

Sources of the Data

I use the following main sources to identify the existence of a project and then the details associated with that project.  Considering Wind Farms which generally get most attention.

The fact of a wind farm, proposed, agreed or being built will come from any of:  the developers website; DECC REPD; a news item; the planning portal (any of hundreds of Council’s portals)

Identifying the fact of an active wind farm or turbines is easier, the OFGEM list is pretty complete, but that’s where it stops, while it has an address, that only gives a clue to the correct location.

Exact Location: In all cases, the challenge is then identifying the exact location. All other resources appear to rely on the grid reference associated with the postcode, a simple look up. With RM, I will use the location shown on the planning application, or where I am adding an older project, maybe a satellite view from Google or Bing. (sometimes triangulating a series of street views). Some developers will include detailed information on location, maybe an aerial shot of a solar farm, most don’t.

Technology: With Wind Farms, I aim to include the make and model along with a cross reference to specs of the wind turbines used.  Over 99% of active wind farms or individual turbines listed (over 6,000) show the correct turbine along with hub height and exact location

Cross Reference RM / DECC / OFGEM : As each project is added, the corresponding REPD and OFGEM data is linked to it.  In the case of REPD, this only applies to projects over 1MW.

Detective Work

Throughout RM you will see a cross reference between RM data, DECC and OFGEM. Each data set can refer to energy projects by different names and capacities. Add to that challenge, when the same project is referred to as one name by DECC and totally different and multiple names by OFGEM.  The 50MW Drayton Manor Solar Farm is one of many examples, DECC calls it Drayton Manor, OFGEM  – actually its not OFGEM but the operating company – breaks the project down into The Oaks; The Beeches;  The Rushes; The Leys etc. Very confusing at 1st glance.

In all cases, I treat OFGEM data as definitive as it comes from the operator – otherwise they don’t get their ROCs

Availability of this data: The non paying user will now see only the fact of a project and an approximate location.  Currently unlinked DECC (REPD ) data and OFGEM data is available.

The subscribed user will see projects with all data visible and normally, local projects shown visually on the displayed map.

There is an option to subscribe to csv downloads. This allows the user to download data in bulk.


DECC and their RESTATS map. You couldn’t make it up.

Well, having been advised that the Parliamentary Library recommend Renewables Map for information on Solar Farms, See:  I wrote to my MP Helen Whately and raised two issues.

Why was   Parliament  advised to use Renewables Map rather than the £160,000 DECC equivalent? Actually no real question as RESTATS / REPD is unusable as a ready resource.

And when providing a map was one of the requirements of the tender, also a requirement under INSPIRE,  was there still no interactive map?

The questions were passed to Amber Rudd who ignored the first question entirely and regurgitated the same pat answers about why I didn’t get a look in on the tender. Basically: We are the Government, we always follow the rules and do no wrong.

My question:

“So, here we have the Government paying Eunomia for renewable energy project data collection and delivery. Being a joined up government I would be very interested in why “Renewables Map” my free resource is now being used as a reference within the House of Commons Library: (para heading “Converting solar to energy”).

I am more than happy for  parliament, their library and MPs etc to use it, I see that as a fantastic pat on the back  and would happily give even greater access, not all my data is visible. I do this already for very many students who base PhDs and MScs on my data and a growing number of schools who treat it as a core resource.

But what I would really appreciate is some understanding as to why DECC chose a company that is still failing to deliver when I had a track record going back 7 years at that time and had been previously used by DECC as their resource, but for free.   “

No mention whatever in her reply.

As to the non existent map, see: and scroll down to:

On-line Interactive Maps

Please note that this facility has been removed while we update it.

But Ms Rudd says there is a map !  At last, well done.

Oh, actually there isn’t a map. I have attached Ms Rudd’s letter, but here is the relevant text:

However, Mr Mallett may also be referring to the publication of an interactive map. This is a requirement under the European Directive 2007/2/EC, known as ‘INSPIRE’. The aim of INSPIRE is to facilitate better environmental policy across the EU and requires Member States to make available, in a consistent format, spatial datasets which come within the scope of the Directive and create network web services for accessing the datasets.

I can confirm that the REPD service has been developed to meet these aims and objectives. Users are directed to a web map service where they can download and ultimately use the REPD information to build their own maps or applications. I agree that the sign posting to this resource is not as clear as it might be, so I have asked for the web pages to be updated with this information

Well, I have tried to find this but have failed miserably. I have tried the option: GIS data is also available on  and that doesn’t work.  For heavens sake, this is 18 months since the contract was awarded and a basic part of the system is still not available!  Ms Rudd, I trust that you didn’t write that letter to me, simply signed it, they are taking the micky and making you look stupid!

INSPIRE is a requirement, DECC have failed to deliver.

There is no map, even the DIY map doesn’t work. How easy is it to add a map? Well, in the absence of a MAP for the REPD data, that has been paid for from Govt funds but not delivered, I included an additional location map for the REPD data I show as a convenient service to Parliament, and everybody else. It took about an hour to implement.  There are no restrictions as I am simply providing a service that is otherwise  missing – clearly welcomed by Parliament.  I do add a proviso that this is not my data, and the location accuracy is a bit dodgy.


Operation Stack: A combined Lorry Park and Solar Farm Solution

Can I suggest what has to be a practical solution to the chaos of Operation Stack.

I think it might be initially dismissed as a bit “off the wall” but I will also cover why it is practical.

Operation Stack is the parking of lorries on the M20 normally from junction 8 onwards depending on the number of lorries, potentially taking the whole M20 through to junction 10 or 11. Most recently this has involved over 4,000 lorries though might normally range from 1,500 to 2,500.

P&O ferries estimate operation stack costs the UK £250 million per day. That will be the impact on the closure of Dover, not the storage of lorries, but even if that part had a cost impact of say £10 million
The proposal below is based on 2,500 lorries though clearly scale-able.
The alternative to using the M20 for emergency lorry parking is to have a an area set aside as a dedicated lorry park.  The challenges then are how can you have a large area which is left empty and unused apart from rare events such as a storm or fog in the channel or less rare, a strike. Additionally the lorry park would need some kind of surface that mitigates against mud and of course provides services for lorry drivers. Access is of course a requirement though that is needed whatever.
Having listened to operationstackarguments for or against a lorry park over many years, the killer remains the reluctance to have a large land area just doing nothing. This proposal deals with that.

First off, how big will a park need to be. My estimate based on 2,500 lorries is between 40 and 50 acres, realistically a large industrial farming field. I have estimated this by taking a juggernaut length as  16 metres and a width of about 3 metres, That’s 48 square metres, say an allocation of 60 square metres per lorry allowing for parking etc.

A 10 MW solar farm is usually associated with an area of 40 to 50 acres, this normally represents 1/3 coverage by solar panels, the whole field is not covered so as to allow for sunshine to reach the ground and allows for wild flowers and sheep grazing.

An alternative is of course to allocate a 50 to 100 acre field as a lorry park and cover it with concrete so it is a proper lorry park, we could have another 50 to 100 acres next to it as a solar farm, There are many who would consider this the sensible normal solution. “Cover a field with concrete, take up twice as much space, then most likely add shade for the lorries. Later on some bright spark will suggest putting solar panels on the shade / roofs!

There are an increasing number of car parks with solar panels acting as shade and providing an additional use for the land. The panels are simply placed high acting as the car port roof – its not rocket science.

A lorry car port would simply mean raising the panels by an additional 2 metres or so. Possibly providing additional width. Not difficult.

So, if a field is suitable for and has planning permission for a solar farm, by modifying the design of the panel supporting structure, possibly also increasing the panel density (the field is not shared with sheep or wild-flowers so we don’t need to worry about excess shade) we have a solar  farm that can also take operation stack lorries.


Why is this an increasingly sensible solution?

The reluctance to assign a large field or fields to operation stack is possibly the aversion to seeing an area laying fallow for in a sense, ever.  But we are happy to cover a field with solar panels.

The panel structures can be set out so that lorries can park in rows, that’s easy. There would need to be a marshalling area on the entry and exit of the rows, again, just allocation of space.

Would we need hard surface? Actually no, the panels can be installed with guttering, thus a minimal risk of mud even in the heaviest rain storm, thus the only managed surface might be in the marshalling area.

The panels will provide shade both against rain and sun

Power will be relatively easy. While the panels individually generate at 12 volts DC , combined and inverted to higher AC voltage, adding mains voltage outlets would be straightforward.

Of course the field retains its primary function as a solar farm, operation stack or not.

Who pays?  Well, solar farms are installed anyway and make money through RO (being phased out) and FIT. I have no doubt that a grant could be made available to cover the additional installation costs, the biggest cost will most likely be access to and from the road network, however that is a cost whatever solution is selected. The additional costs might be funded by using the site – along with the solar farm – as an overnight lorry park.

Other impacts? Well, the lorry park is all but hidden, the main planning will be focused on a high level solar farm, and ad-hoc lorry access, not as a lorry park per se.

Actually there is an ideal location already and maybe just needs an approach to the landowner:

(NB. This is my suggestion, I have no connection to Guston Court) Guston Court Farm has planning permission to build a solar farm, I cannot think of a better location.
Other locations would be wherever it is appropriate to build a solar farm and has a proximity to the M20. Oaklands Solar Farm at Hothfield. This solar farm has been built but could be re-established as a solar lorry port, but would need a link to the M20. .

But what about any existing solar installations?  Surly the challenge these days is getting permission / making a decision!  Retrofitting with a revised solar panel mounting system is realistically not that big a deal.

Whatever solution, the risk remains that as soon as “Stack” is a short term memory, there are other pressing issues, so an empty lorry park is not a sensible priority.  This solution, its a Solar Farm! Tends to avoid that.

How on earth to get some support?

Well, Renewables Map is now about to support the Dusk till Dawn air event. Its being regularly used by all universities and in an increasing number of PhDs and degree projects, all the major energy companies use it, as does the bbc and other media including  such as Bloomberg, Associated Newspapers, Just about every Council, schools, industrials and of course I get the “consultancies” trying to data mine.

I think it not unreasonable to write to them for support, certainly when they email to praise the service, often following the praise with: and can you send me all your data.

Here’s an example from Ecotricity / Ecotricity Group Ltd –  “Hello, Thanks so much – this is a great resource! Would the information be available to download at all? It would be much appreciated. Kind regards, ” an ideal opportunity to reply with a hint that maybe a bit of support might be in order. NO RESPONSE from Ecotricity.  Later a direct approach, again NO RESPONSE!

The same for Bloomberg:

Good day Simon,
I am a researcher with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a premier data, news and analytics provider to the renewable energy sector.
We are currently updating our global database of all projects and investments in the clean energy sector. We have found that your data coverage of the UK market will help us accurately update our projects database, thus we would like to request permission to use the data as well as any derivatives of the data.
Please refer to the following link:
This information will be utilized by senior decision makers in the clean energy sector and we would therefore like to provide accurate information regarding the United Kingdom’s renewable energy sector.
Should you need any clarity regarding my request please feel free to email me.
I did email, including a suggestion – very polite – that maybe they might support Renewables Map. NO RESPONSE.
For heavens sake Bloomberg, the price you charge for your data terminals, you will be selling my data and you expect a free service from me. You are taking the mickey!
Siemens, Vestas, Ainscough Cranes, National Grid,  the list goes on.
The biggest council user, my own council, Kent County Council, when approached, well after a great many emails being ignored, finally I get a response saying that they don’t use Renewables Map, they use DECC.  NO YOU DON’T! You use Renewables Map, almost on a daily basis.
Scottish Power, well read my blog entry on Scottish Power about a month ago. Being the biggest user I happened to write to them asking for a contribution. Well done SP, they replied, but said that they had their own resource. Coincidentally I get an email from Scottish Power telling me they are relying on my dataset to populate their internal resource!  You couldn’t make it up!
So, as in other cases I mark their IP to divert to a page asking for assistance. The result, well have a look at the Scottish Power access record and you can see a concerted attempt to crash Renewables Map.  Have a look at 26/05/2015, about 3,000 key-presses. Clearly somebody is frustrated at not being able to data mine and wanted to damage Renewables Map..
A note to Scottish Power. You are a global power with £billions of turnover. I have had a single donation of £50 in 8 years and sold sets of data to a total of about £800 to very nice companies who have had the professionalism to ask and pay.
Eunomia who got the contract to provide a competing “renewable energy database and map for DECC, yes, they try to data-mine.  DECC used to use Renewables Map as if it was their resource, I bid to provide it officially, no, I wasn’t even considered. So where is DECC’s map?  They are paying Eunomia up to £160K for that service.  I provide Renewables Map for free.
Other requests for data, they are very very welcome and I bend over backwards to support them, PhD students, schools, private individuals, voluntary organisations, all get it free and my only request is often just a citation or link.  And these are the overwhelming number of users who actively support Renewables Map, telling me about projects I have missed, more recently offering active support.
The dusk till Dawn challenge asked for the data. Not only was the answer yes, but I converted the lat / long into a format that they could use.
Have I ever received a comment from a major energy company offering information, after all, they have the data from the horses mouth?   Now let me see …  Ah, NO!
But what is wrong with the major companies? Why are they actively against supporting a resource that they clearly value and use routinely?
They all claim to be increasingly sustainable, but when it come to information, well its not like the wind, somebody has to be behind it!

Crown Estates and an unsustainable contact

Whenever I see a significant use of the Renewables Map, especially by an organisation that presents itself as supporting interesting projects, its time to make contact.

I saw:   no need to follow the links as they have taken the page down, but basically offering funding for suitable projects. Anyway, as Crown Estates were a major user of Renewables Map, it seemed appropriate to make contact.

So, an email last year, No reply, then followed up by:

Sent: Friday, April 17, 2015 8:04 AM
To: Enquiries
Subject: Re: Re “Working with us”

Dear Sir

I wrote to Crown Estates almost a year ago.  I was surprised to not even get an acknowledgement.

My last email described the heavy use of renewables map, clearly by Crown Estates staff, I am trying to keep this a freely available resource but as an individual you must appreciate that is not easy. Galling when the major users are multinationals

See your own use

I would be grateful if this could be passed on to the correct department



On 2 June 2014 at 14:48, Simon   wrote:

Dear Sir


I am making contact with regard to the community projects that you support and whether my particular project might be eligible.

I am the creator and maintainer of A resource that documents all renewable energy projects in the UK. I started this project back in 2008 and more recently it has grown out of all proportion to what it was and what can be maintained as a sustainable free resource by an individual. (Google adsense adverts generate about £15 a month )

The Renewables Map

It is easily the most comprehensive database / map showing renewable energy projects with a capacity of 1MW and over.

It is unique in showing the correct locations for projects, other resources [are either geographically limited (ie Cornwall only) or show the location based on the postcode. It is the only resource also showing precise individual turbine locations, [including] make and model, spec and elevation, many on Crown Estate land. So far almost 5,000 active turbines and another 1000 under construction and 1,200 proposed.

I monitor access to the resource and I note that Crown Estates staff are regular users.


It is a similar picture for all the energy companies, universities and schools, construction companies, local authorities and government departments from the FCO through to AEA Technology they are all regular users, along  Along with up to 7,000 other visitors each month through ISPs.

I would be grateful if you could consider this resource for funding, it certainly refers to your property and resources on it and is currently used by you. Would you consider Funding either through sponsorship or a grant or, preferably, with an element where the data can more directly support Crown Estates, I’ve got lots of ideas.

The first thing that comes to mind is a Crown Estates branded “Renewable energy map”  showing just those projects tagged as being on Crown Estates land. This would draw on the existing database and any relevant additional data.

If the above or an alternative is of interest, I would be happy to provide a more formal project proposal.

I have read the details on your website with regard to “Working with us” and the various terms of reference and this project would appear to fit in very well with your current ethic [??]

best wishes

So, finally a response.  Thanks Crown Estates, far bigger users don’t bother with responding, then simply carry on using a resource that they seem to increasingly rely on.

Anyway, without giving names and email addresses and the actual text of the email as it has a standard disclaimer about being confidential and only for the recipient etc. The gist was   NO.  But I got a response! Which deserved a polite reply.

Hi Martin

Thanks for your response.

I had checked again the use of Renewables Map by Crown Estates and see that the system had anyway switched off access automatically due to the very high use. I normally switch most users back on.

A major crane  provider was more blatant, they had employed a staff member to populate their dataset, found Renewables Map and proceeded to  go through my dataset one by one. When their access was stopped they complained, promised to look in to contributing – I have an email saying this – then, when access was restored carried on downloading with no further positive contact, only a further complaint when they were switched off again!

I really want to see use of the system, but it is perverse that the organisations that propose they are sustainable, don’t apply that principle to data.

It is very sad how Major businesses, feel that they have a right to information of this type and formatted in this way without contributing in any way, I note that you didn’t review the extent to which Crown Estates used to use Renewables Map, hence my contact. .

But, thanks again for the response, that was appreciated, bigger users simply don’t reply.



So, can I suggest an alternative approach?

If you are a heavy user of Renewables Map, why not be part of its success, take a sustainable approach? Simply downloading every last bit of data that you can and walking away, well, its going to cost you in terms of time, most likely more than simply approaching me and paying for a download, then you can be part of its success!

Far better to support it a bit more, maybe guide it in a direction that really helps you?

Scottish Power – An Unethical and Unsustainable Approach?

Any regular user of Renewables Map will have seen that I am trying to get funding. As a resource used by just about everybody in the industry almost on a daily basis, it clearly satisfies a need. It is unfunded, non profit and with regard to being a charity, well, charities or trusts cost money to set up and time to administer.  Chicken and Egg comes to mind.

But, lets consider Scottish Power’s attitude.

Where a company is clearly using Renewables Map as if it was an internal resource, its time to contact them to enquire about  funding. After all, they are a multinational, I’m an individual, they seem to be expecting me to work for them for free. And no, I’m not a charity supporting multinationals .

This is how much Scottish Power uses Renewables Map:

The use is shown over about 6 months, That’s almost 2,000 page views almost 200 during April 2015. They are one of my biggest users.

So a polite email, after a great deal of research to try to find the most suitable contact, to save yourself a good hour or so,  try asking about support for Renewable Map. I included links to pages that show Scottish Power how much they used Renewables Map and general use of the resource.

Coincidentally I get an email from Scottish Power

Hi Simon,

Do you have a list of all windfarms currently in operation in the SPEN Scotland

These regions are Ayrshire and Clyde South, Borders, Central and Fife, Dumfries and Galloway, Edinburgh and Lothians, Glasgow and Clyde North, Lanarkshire.

I am just new to the company so any information you can provide me with would be a great help

Thanks for your time

Kind Regards

Which gets a polite response from me explaining much the same as I say on the website, that I am trying to get Renewables Map to pay for itself and am unwilling to work for free.

The response was equally polite, well done that employee, I hope you go far.

Thanks for your time and I think it is fair enough that you do not want to be used as a unpaid resource when you have obviously put a lot of time and effort into developing this website.

From my own perspective, I feel the tool you have developed is very useful and Scottish Power should take advantage of it. I had been set a task to compile a database very similar to the one you have prepared and I feel what I produced wasn’t as up to date as it could have been.

So, Scottish Power want to create their own version of Renewables Map and of course the simplest way is to copy it!

Actually I have been here before with Ainscough Cranes,  they actually employed a student to copy Renewables Map project by project.

Then I get a response from Scottish Power Foundation

Dear Simon,

Thank-you for your email detailing the website you have created. ScottishPower Foundation as you will see from our web page  is an independent charity that supports  5 different categories. However applications for  funding is only available to  charities and not for profit organisations.

 I did pass your e-mail to the relevant department within ScottishPower and the reply received was that it was obvious that Renewable Map is a real passion of yours and while it looks like a good resource, albeit with some notable gaps, this is not something ScottishPower can financially support at this time. We have a range of products which fulfil this purpose in house.

Best wishes in all your future endeavours.

Kind regards,

Yes, Scottish Power,  I know you have a range of similar products in house, the person who is copying Renewables Map to create them has just written to me asking me to make it easier for him to take the data I have collected, to create these internal products!

At least they had the decency to write back.

So, a resource used by every energy company in the UK, Every University, Every Council ….

Pretty soul destroying if this attitude is going to be repeated.  I should note that my concern is not the lack of funding as such, more the blatant criticism of a resource that they use on a daily basis and have clearly used / copied to create their own!

So, Scottish Power, a note.  This is not an ethical approach. Equally it is not sustainable. The whole concept of sustainability is that the resource that is being used remains, it applies to more than just the wind!