In a plan to cut carbon emissions power stations around the UK are being encouraged to burn wood in order to cut carbon omissions. The UK Government argue that burning “biomass” is a carbon neutral process and will offer subsidies to stations which start using wood to produce power instead of coal.
One of the country’s largest coal fired stations, Drax, is aiming to replace half of its coal energy output and replace with biomass. Eggborough, in North Yorkshire, plans to replace all its coal with wood burning energy production.
The amount of biomass that has been burned for electricity production has doubled in capacity in the last 12 months to approximately 3 million tons and it is thought that this will increase to near enough ten times that amount by 2017. This means that most of the wood that will be burned for energy in this country will be imported from abroad; already half of current biomass stocks are imported.
However a report from the RSPB, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace declares that the amount of carbon that is produced when burning wood is higher than that of coal per unit of electricity. The reason for this is due to the fact that newly cut wood is wet and bulky which means that carbon has already produced through transportation to the power stations as they source wood from as far away as New Zealand as well as having to dry the wood out.
Also as wood, in weight, is half water so the amount of wood required is far more than you would need to produce the same amount of energy with coal. Even when the trees are replanted the amount of time it would take to offset the amount of carbon already produced is too great to make a difference.
More information can be found on the RSPB website.
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