What is sustainable wood fuel?
Estover are signing agreements with local forestry owners to guarantee a reliable and plentiful supply of wood fuel from within an average of 50 miles from each plant. All fuel will be from sustainable sources licensed by the Forestry Commission and which meet the internationally recognised UK Forestry Standard (UKFS).
- We will use low-grade wood - our aim is to use as much wood fuel from the parts of the tree that have little or no use to other potential users as possible. We burn wood chip rather than pellets. (Pellets use much more energy to produce and increase carbon emissions).
- Sustainable management only extracts a small amount of the wood from a forest each year, say 2%. For a forest of 20,000 acres, this would be about 1,600 tonnes, of which we would use the low-grade output - a small proportion.
- For example, during the harvesting process the poorer quality trees are removed, leaving behind trees with potential to become excellent timber. This process actually causes the remaining 98% of the forest to grow faster, which in turn locks up more carbon than if the trees had been left alone.
- We leave some dead wood to encourage birds and insects, in line with appropriate standards, but even so we dramatically reduce emissions of methane – a much worse “greenhouse gas” than carbon dioxide. This also improves the health of the forest and encourages rare species such as dormice, nightjars, and butterflies.
The diagram below outlines the carbon cycle - click the image for a larger version in a new window.
Wide support from environmental and ecological organisations
Many environmental organisations support local wood fuel, particulary the scale of plants that Estover is developing:
“Biomass power stations should be using wood fuel produced in the UK from better management of our forests and woodlands. We must also use the large amounts of unused waste and agricultural by-products the UK produces."
“... support should be redirected towards small-scale local supply of feedstocks, ensuring efficiency is maximised through heat capture."
- The Woodland Trust has lent their support to the type of fuel Estover will use:
"Sensitively harvested, locally produced woodfuel can help avoid fossil fuel emissions and provide habitat for wildlife. We also think that demand for woodfuel could be one of the drivers in encouraging new native woodland planting, which would bring with it a whole host of other benefits from improving air and water quality, locking up carbon and helping woodland wildlife adapt to climate change.”
“Electricity produced from wood chips and roundwood from sustainably managed forests in the UK offer substantial savings (over 90 per cent) compared to EU average electricity generation. .... in the case of the UK coniferous forest example, if wood is supplied as wood chips or roundwood, the increase in carbon stocks is enough to more than offset the GHG emissions associated with all other stages (cultivation, processing, transport and generation) and so savings are over 100 per cent.”
- AEA produced a report for the UK government's Department for Energy & Climate Change showing how CHP is a better use of fuel than heat-only or electricity-only:
"... carbon saving increases with increased heat extraction and is maximised at maximum cogeneration mode. Above about 27.5% heat efficiency, the CHP displaces more CO2 from fossil fuel boilers and power stations than a biomass boiler for the same fuel input." (p25)
- The Confederation of Forest Industries (CONFOR) thinks biomass will stimulate the production of more wood:
“Local biomass energy can provide opportunities for new and existing businesses in the sector and helps to make forest management more financially viable - bringing more wood to market.”
There is also a biomass campaign page here with more information - www.backbiomass.co.uk