Biomass is the largest source of renewable energy in Europe
Biomass alone accounts for 68.5 % of the renewable energy produced in EU-27, mainly in the form of solid wood biomass for heating :
Despite an already important role, wood as source of energy still has a significant growth potential as a means to fight climate change.
The wood biomass, an untapped resource
Forests cover over 28% of the surface of France and a vast proportion of Europe. The forests in Europe have experienced continuous growth for 150 years. The annual harvest of timber is less than the natural growth of the forest. Furthermore a significant portion of what is currently harvested ends in “wastes” (sawdust, forestry residues, …) which are not valued today and that may be used as wood energy.
The wood energy is a local energy resource and creates many jobs
Wood can be transported economically on a distance of about 200 km, which means that it is a local resource. According to a French public institution (the ADEME), the consumption of 1000 tons of wood creates one permanent job and about 20 permanent jobs for a heating plant of 10 MW. As a comparison, a 10 MW photovoltaic power plant creates about one full time job. Among renewable energies, the wood energy has the most favorable impact in terms of jobs creation.
The potential of biomass as a heat source is enormous
Renewable energy policy is rapidly changing the European biomass market. In response to the much-publicized EU Energy 2020 strategy, targeting 20% of energy requirements to come from renewable sources, biomass demand is expected to grow as much as 50% within the next decade :
The most spectacular growth takes place in the area of district heating. For example, the “Grenelle de l’Environment” in France sets a quantitative target of a 12-fold increase of the heat produced annually from biomass and distributed by district heating networks, between 2008 and 2020 :
Biomass boilers have a very high efficiency
A wood boiler consists primarily of five elements:
- a storage silo;
- a system of extractors and conveyers of wood pellets / chips to the fireplace;
- the boiler consists of a fireplace and a heat exchanger with the network;
- a flue gas cleaning system (dust collector);
- an ash removal system.
These plants have a very high efficiency and usefullness :
- Energetically, the efficiency of biomass boilers is excellent (90%).
- Socially, wood projects create many jobs in the forestry industry and the supply chain (1 job for 1000 tons, or about two jobs per MW).
- Environmentally, the wood is a renewable energy with no CO2 emission during the life cycle. Per KWh, wood is 2 to 5 times cheaper than photovoltaic energy, and 2 to 3 times cheaper than fuel oil.