Wood: sustainable fuel of the future?

Wood: sustainable fuel of the future?

22 September, 2016

It happens to be the most-used renewable energy source in Europe, ahead of photovoltaic solar power and wind power.  The use of wood fuels is on the increase, its consumption by families, industries and businesses steadily increasing. In developing countries in particular, wood is a vital resource for families. It has proven to be a...

It happens to be the most-used renewable energy source in Europe, ahead of photovoltaic solar power and wind power.  The use of wood fuels is on the increase, its consumption by families, industries and businesses steadily increasing.

In developing countries in particular, wood is a vital resource for families. It has proven to be a major source of energy in Latin America, Asia and Africa, utilised by both industries and private households.

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Europe, for its part, also uses massive amounts of wooden pallets. In 2012, 13 million tonnes of said pallets were consumed.  Europe itself doesn’t produce enough timber to meet continent-wide levels of consumption, and hence for many years now has been importing large quantities of wood, in particular from Canada and Latin America.

palets-combustible

Wood-based energy has been the subject of numerous recent studies. Despite controversy surrounding the question of whether it can actually be efficient (given the large levels of carbon dioxide emitted during processing), researchers agree that in practice, a model featuring the burning of solid biomass along with a combined timber harvesting can be sustainable at the same time as it generates revenue.  In other words, keeping in mind that the wood used in a power station comes from well-managed forests, the carbon emitted from its chimney stacks will be offset by the planting of new trees.   However, attaining carbon neutrality will also depend on the type of forest, whether wood shavings or whole trees are used, growth speed of the trees, etc.

quema de madera

And so, by managing the process of harvesting the biomass, and offsetting the CO₂ emissions through planting new forests which consume carbon dioxide as they grow, we can procure a sustainable wood-based fuel.

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