Renewable energy isn’t just about wind turbines, hydro-dams and such like, there is also a much more prosaic, simpler dimension to this increasingly important sector – biomass.
Iain Todd, of AREG, notes in his review that wood-based renewables are making quite a mark in the north-east of Scotland and that there is more, much more, to come. Among the pioneers in this regard is Arbuthnott Wood Pellets, which apparently ranks as Scotland’s first commercial wood pellet producer.
Moreover, this company is urging housing developers, businesses and institutions to think “green” and take advantage of the country’s natural resources by moving away from traditional fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. Arbuthnott Wood Pellets (AWP) went into production earlier this year with its own brand of wood pellets, Stovies, to satisfy the emerging demand for energy from low-carbon, environmentally-friendly sources.
The company’s £1million plant was built with the help of a 40% grant from the Scottish Biomass support scheme. This plant can currently deliver two tonnes per hour.
However, the UK is way behind its European neighbours, as well as North America, where there is a well established market for wood pellets, despite Scotland having an abundance of natural resources to provide a reliable supply of this type of fuel. AWP owner Keith Arbuthnott says that the current price of oil is only one reason why the nation should be looking to change its habits.
“Despite Government incentives, the uptake for wood pellet fuel in the UK has been disappointingly slow.
“Any emerging technology takes a while to bed in, but housing developers and larger institutions should be forward-thinking, particularly in the light of increasing oil prices, and as consumer demand is rising for cost-effective energy that does not harm the environment.
“It is forecast that the UK’s demand for renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions will grow significantly during the next 20 years.”
Scotland is in an ideal position to take the lead in the UK in the use of wood fuel, with woodlands covering 17% of her land area.
Arbuthnott said: “We, at AWP, have substantial forest resource of 1.341million hectares, the capacity to manufacture a high-quality product and the security of continued resource, so we would like to see more institutions in the public sector, such as schools and hospitals, taking advantage of this and preparing for the future.”
All of AWP’s raw materials come from sustainable Scottish woodland – largely conifer with a commercial rotation that takes some 40 or more years to mature before harvesting and replanting. Each tree can produce enough fuel to heat two three-bedroom houses for a month. Wood is a renewable source of energy because the carbon dioxide emitted when the wood is burned has been removed from the atmosphere by the growing tree.
Replacing fossil fuel with wood fuel will typically reduce net CO emissions by more than 90% even when you take planting, harvesting, manufacturing and distribution into account.
Wood pellets are made of highly compressed sawdust or wood chips and are burned in specially designed stoves or boilers which are now readily available in Scotland.
Some existing solid-fuel and oil boilers can be converted to make use of wood pellets. Wood fuel is often referred to as biomass because it is a combustible product of biological origin.
According to Arbuthnott, the wood pellets have the calorific value of coal and are about half the cost of heating oil.