Wasted Wood

One of the websites that I maintain is www.renewables-map.co.uk. This is a log of all the major renewable energy projects in the UK, generally anything over 1Mw. One area I cover is biomass, I see projects that will result in millions of tonnes of wood being shipped to the UK to be burnt. 

While biomass is certainly renewable energy in that it has a sort of closed loop, trees grow, they get cut, burnt, more trees grow and suck the CO2 out of the air to be burnt again. I do wonder if lareg swathes of forest are being cut down and burnt to allow for fast growing plantations that disturb the soil and overall release far more CO2 than will ever be saved using the biomass ‘loop’.

While developing these huge schemes, chopping down and shipping forests across the Atlantic we are in the meantime ignoring huge volumes of biomass that is burnt as waste.

Ever seen a tree culled from the roadside? That tree is effectively the same wood as is being shipped across the Atlantic, but rather than being used as free fuel, it will be classed as a waste product and must be disposed of. Out in rural areas most likley on a semi legal bonfire, it might end up as landfill at best it is chipped and used as compost.

While we can’t power Britain by using offcusts from the hedge rows, surely we can divert the wood into the biomass fuel cycle and give it a use and value rather than treating it as a waste product  which has a cost.

Too difficult? Not at all, just a function of organisation and management. I can envisage a series of waste wood yards collecting biomass. Define what consitutes biomass and pay for it. Not so much that we have thieves stealing wood, but enough to cover the legitimate users fuel costs in getting it there.  The biomass plants can then have a single local source of fuel to augment their existing supplies.


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