Thursday, 9 May 2013

Solar Power v Bio Fuels.

We've just returned to the UK after staying with friends in Portugal.                                           
Their villa is supplied by local landowners with well matured and dried logs to feed their wood burning stove which was lit each chilly spring evening.
It may be a "primeval man" thing, but I love the warm glow of a real fire and the comfort it gives.  It may feel natural, but is it sustainable or environmental?
 I'd love to say YES, but despite the increasing number of UK households with wood scavenging adults and wood burning stoves the reality is less certain.

I reprint the following from Norbord, not because people with solar panels on their roofs are "whiter than white", manufacturing panels and accessories obviously negate that, but in attempt to show not ALL alternative energy is as good as it seems..

Under the Renewables Obligation, the UK government has incentivised the burning of wood instead of fuels such as oil and gas to create electricity.
This enables energy generators to pay more than double the price paid by UK manufacturers who use wood to make their products. This has driven up prices by 60% in the last five years.
But the bigger issue is CO2 emissions.
Dirtier than coal is a joint report by the RSPB, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace that explains how, when compared with burning coal, burning trees will actually increase emissions by 49% over the next 40 years.
Here’s the science: when wood is burnt, CO2 is emitted – one tonne of dry wood burnt in a power station will emit 1.8 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.
The DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) has ignored these emissions; they argue that the carbon released is offset by the carbon absorbed by the growing forest so they assume that wood used as biomass fuel is a ‘carbon-free asset’.
This means that they can completely ignore the very real carbon emitted by the smokestacks of power plants, on the assumption that it is offset by the growth of trees.
Unfortunately, this dismisses the fact that forests are already growing and already storing carbon, when the trees are harvested and burnt, that carbon storage is eliminated and the carbon that was in the tree is released into the atmosphere.
So the energy companies are being paid carbon credits to increase carbon emissions.
Whereas wood used in manufacturing ensures carbon is locked in for up to 35 years with the remaining scrap timber being burnt for heat generation instead of going to landfill sites.
To add insult to injury, the environmentally disastrous results of burning wood for energy is subsidised
by almost a £1billion a year, with households providing the money for this subsidy via their energy bills.
If only half of the planning permission applications for biomass power stations are approved, they will have the capacity to consume many times the entire annual UK sustainable timber harvest.
Due to the inequity of the current subsidy arrangements, this will mean that this wood fibre will no
longer be cost effectively available to British traditional users of wood.
The consequences of this are many and varied. The cost of goods manufactured with timber-based products will rise dramatically. Manufacturing companies are likely to consider moving out of Britain to locations where the raw material is more readily and cheaply available or wood fibre will be imported into Britain creating a negative impact on the balance of trade.
There will also be an impact on the fragile recovery of the building industry with increased costs for wood panels.
Inevitable price increases mean builders may consider plywood from sources such as China. This raises more environmental issues as timber from these sources may have come from threatened rain forests and illegal logging.
Highest CO2 levels in 5 million years seem to confirm we need to be doing something soon. Newspaper report.

 Do you have a wood burning stove? Is it economic for you, or do you just like a "real" fire?
I'd like to hear your views.

Twitter: (@solaricarus)


  1. Very interesting, thanks for posting this. Liked the idea that wood used for furniture locks in the carbon for 35 more years whereas if it's burnt in a power station it's releasing carbon to the atmosphere. Will try not to annoy friends with wood-burning stoves... My energy plan would be nuclear, solar and wind - in that order.

    1. Hi Chris.
      As always...Ditto. My energy plan would be nuclear, solar and wind - in that order.

  2. Yes I agree that a lot of CO2 gets generated while woods are burnt. But sometimes It is necessary for people like me. I am not as much strong economically this is the reason why I have bought a Cheap Wood burning stove. I am not able to afford electric heaters also. My children can keep the cold away by this stove. This is the reason that why this stove is necessary for me. There are a lot of areas are available where we can take steps for preventing pollution.