by David Saunders
The concepts of climate change, fuel security and carbon foot-printing have recently become firmly entrenched in our popular consciousness. Our impact on the planet is regularly discussed over a pint or across the dinner table. Disaster scenarios and renewable solutions are often debated in the media, but rarely is wood fuel mentioned as a readily available carbon neutral fuel.
Fundamental misconceptions about burning wood are a significant barrier to the development of the wood fuel industry in Britain. Yet wood from a sustainable local source, with just the transport and processing cost in carbon, releases a tenth of the CO2 compared with oil and a seventh compared with mains gas (XCO2 Conisbee Ltd).
Wood is often perceived as a dirty, cumbersome fuel. Few people realise that modern automated systems running on wood chip are clean and elegant. The technology is available and proven. With appropriate system management, the end user can simply adjust a typical thermostat and enjoy carbon-neutral heat at the flick of a switch.
Getting the message across to the general public and decision makers alike that it is OK, when woodland is managed properly, to cut down trees and burn wood is a challenge to the forestry industry. Whilst we are justifiably passionate about the unnecessary destruction of trees and woodlands, this noble attitude can get in the way of recognising wood as a resource with the capacity to supply clean, renewable heating and hot water.
The emergence of wood as a viable fuel source in the UK is at the ‘teething’ stage. There are problems to be solved – public image, chip standardisation, quality control, consistency of supply and storage. However, none of these problems are insurmountable - as shown in countries such as Austria and Sweden, where an efficient wood heating infrastructure has been established for many years. In Sweden 34% of domestic heating is wood fuelled (www.bioenergy.org).
In the UK there are numerous individuals, businesses and organisations that are pioneering the establishment of wood fuel as a mainstream supplier of heat. Grants are available and the number of installed automated wood fuel systems is increasing all the time generating a new income stream for sustainable woodland management.
Training course on this at WEC 2nd December ----more