Burning wood for the common good

Burning wood for heat and for electrical power generation

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The British government, just about capable of inventing the wheel, as I have said previously, has “discovered” that waste lumber form the building industry, for instance, does not have to end up in landfill but that it can be burned for generating heat and electrical power instead. Oh my, what a discovery. Real rocket science.

Millions of tons of waste lumber from construction sites, so it is said, go into landfill annually, which is very sad indeed. Why, pray, this waste in the first place? Also, aside from burning such “waste” wood, there certainly must be other uses for it as well.

However, apparently now, after a lengthy, and no doubt costly, study the UK government has found out that this waste lumber from the construction industry can be burned in furnaces to generate heat and even electricity.

Well, that is amazing! The early humans, and I believe even the Neanderthals, could have told them that and we ate the Green (Living) Review have been saying so already for a couple of years.

The excuse for doing nothing was always that power stations would have adapted to burn wood and that that would cost lost of investment. Duh? Why? Any coal-fired electricity generating station can just as well burn wood instead of coal. No need to alter and adapt anything whatsoever really. The BTU output with lumber might be a little lower but, so be it. That can be compensated for with a few turns and twiddles of knobs and dials and such.

They needed a costly and lengthy study, I guess, to tell them that.

Someone somewhere sure is making lots of money from all those studies regarding the environment and all that which the British government has carried out and commissioned to carry out. Money that, in most cases, is needlessly wasted, just like that lumber.

It should have been more than blatantly obvious that one can burn wood to produce heat – has this not always been done – and to generate electricity – which is also being done already in other countries, on small scales, and that is how it should remain – in combined heat and power plants (CHP plants). As I have already said, this is not directly rocket science and one does not require a scientific study for this.

Such CHP plants should, and this has been suggested also already not so long ago by this current UK government, be local plants, generating heat and electricity for a single village, a part of a town, or a city block. This would also do away with the need for the long distance overhead and underground power cables carrying tens of thousands of volts. Rather the current could be already of the domestic voltage, in the case of Britain 240v AC, as there would be no loss in the transmission, as is the case with the current arrangements, here and elsewhere.

In addition to the burning of waste lumber from construction sites, waste wood and such from the forestry and the aboricultural industry also could be used in the selfsame power plants. Nothing would need to get wasted and either needlessly burned on site, as is often the case in forestry operations with wood debris, or dumped in landfill.

There is also no need for the growing of “special” trees for the use in wood-fueled power stations such as eucalyptus or willow and such like. There should be enough waste about to run such power stations for a long time to come.

We could yet again talk about the use of such stations, if and when they would be set up or the coal-fired ones be converted, to combat the Dutch Elm disease. For, with the political will and the woodsmen being brought in for this, Dutch elm disease, as we know it, could be eradicated from the British Isles in a couple of decades. All that is required is to cut every dead and dying elm tree and to sanitarily burn them so as to destroy both the pathogen and the bark beetle that carried the pathogen from tree to tree.

Aside from burning wood in CHP plants, burning wood in a domestic and even commercial setting in stoves and furnaces for heat also is a good and environmentally friendly way. Again here too waste lumber could be used up; ideally, however, only that kind of waste that really is waste. Not simply burning pallets and even construction site waste lumber just for the sake of burning it. I am certain, as indicated before, that there could be other, better uses be found for such lumber than to simply burn it.

Burning wood, before anyone comes up and complains about CO2 emissions, only releases the carbon that it has stored during the lifetime of the tree and maybe not even that amount.

Wood is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to cook and heat, aside from power generated by the sun directly. Wood, in a way, is also sun energy, for it releases the energy of the sun stored in it during the grows of the tree.

© M Smith (Veshengro), July 2008