Wood As The New Coal: Some Countries Implementing New Process

As the nation moves toward a clean energy future, wood is becoming a hot commodity. Power companies are burning more trees , Bloomberg reports, because the renewable fuel can be cheaper than coal and ignited without needing permits to release carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming.

Vattenfall AB of Sweden, Germany’s RWE AG and American Electric Power Inc. of Ohio, the biggest coal-burner in the country, have switched a few plants over to wood with more planned. So far that hasn’t driven up paper prices or strained forests, which absorb carbon dioxide in photosynthesis.

“Wood is very quickly becoming a very important part of the energy mix and in a few years will be a global commodity much like oil,” said Heinrich Unland, chief executive officer of Novus Energy GmbH. The German company runs a wood-power plant north of Hamburg that supplies heat to a Total SA refinery.
Using biomass for power and heat—mainly from poplar, willow and pine trees—grew by 25 percent during the past two decades, according to the International Energy Agency, the Paris-based adviser to 28 oil-consuming nations such as the United States.

Chips of wood stumps and branches, heated 750 degrees Fahrenheit at the Novus furnace, are as efficient as coal and cheaper: European Union rules don’t require carbon-dioxide permits because the trees absorbed a like amount of the gas before harvest, making them carbon-neutral.

Published: June 15, 2009