Why Everyone is a Winner with Domestic Biomass Boilers

Why Everyone is a Winner with Domestic Biomass Boilers

Wood biomass (and in particular pellets) as a renewable energy can be a ‘green’ choice with multiple benefits.  The Forestry Commission’s plan is to increase production of wood biomass in conjunction with management of woodland for wildlife habitat – promoting wildlife habitat and biodiversity.  It might seem counterintuitive to think that increasing wood production can favour wildlife and biodiversity, but in fact the under-management of woodland results in a tall canopy blocking out light from the lower canopy layers – the shrub and forest floor which potentially consists of diverse smaller tree and plant species (and these in turn provide habitat for a whole host of woodland creatures and invertebrates).  Just one sobering fact regarding biodiversity in our woodland: since only 1990, populations of woodland specialist butterflies have declined by 74%.

The UK was once largely covered in trees but now has just eight per cent woodland.  Over the last five thousand years, wood has been harvested for fuel and to make space for agriculture and buildings.  However, as already mentioned, careful management of woodland can provide both a harvest of wood for humans and also a rich habitat for wildlife.  The tall tree canopy (trees such as oak and ash) should be thinned, allowing light to reach the layer below, where hawthorn and other shrub will have early blossom for hungry pollinators, autumn berries for birds and dormice and provide year round cover for shelter and nests.  These small trees can then be coppiced (harvested for wood on a rotational basis) using non-mechanised means, at the appropriate time of year – perhaps autumn – when there will be least disturbance to wildlife.   Decaying wood and ancient woodland should be left intact as important habitat for wildlife.

Just managing existing broadleaved forests appropriately would increase the UK’s available wood biomass by fifty per cent.  Added to this are the benefits through the increase in employment through the whole supply chain, with increased jobs in forestry, the manufacture and transportation of pellets, and more advisors and experts in installing wood pellet boilers.  These green micro-economies which help link people to local woodland management and customers to their local pellet suppliers is both ecologically and emotionally healthy: people are empowered by being linked to, and having knowledge of, their local resources.  It’s disempowering for people if they make every effort to be green and are then told that their wood fuel supply is from virgin forest or took more energy to transport across the world than is saved by using their new eco-technology.  When customers can buy their pellets from, for example, their local saw-mill, they have the satisfaction of being part of the loop.  When customers are able to add nutrient-rich ash to their garden, or the neighbouring allotment, again they have the satisfaction of joining in with nature’s cyclic system.

The waste product from burning pellets, ash, can be absorbed organically back into the earth.  It is organic and there are no contaminants.  As already mentioned, it actually has valuable properties to improve the soil and aid horticulture.

The more our forests and woodlands are run in ways that promote biodiversity, alongside sensitive management for economic benefits, the more aesthetically appealing they will be.  They can become a place for woodland apprenticeships, recreation and ‘green tourism’.

Financially, the customer is also a winner with the Government’s financial Renewable Heat Incentive that will help off-set the high, up-front costs of installing a pellet boiler.  And with wood pellets being cheaper to heat your home than oil or LPG, you could be saving a third on your annual fuel bill.

Good management of woodlands could increase high quality wood products, such as logs, which can be used in buildings in lieu of other, higher cost and higher carbon building materials.

The increase of energy from renewables (particularly micro-generation) helps the Government meet its 2020 targets for carbon reduction.  Over its life cycle, burning biomass in place of coal reduces the carbon footprint by eighty per cent.

The more wood that is sourced in the UK (whether for fuel or building materials) the more knowledge we have of where our resources are from, what impact growing and harvesting those materials have had on people, wildlife and the environment.  Therefore increased use of wood pellets as fuel to meet the UK energy needs is part of a larger interwoven strategy that benefits the UK economy and environment, while lessening the impact we have on other countries’ resources.  The more the UK is self-sufficient in this respect, the less we are in danger of ‘raiding’ other countries’ resources in a harmful way, particularly in respect of preserving the Amazonian rainforest and protecting the indigenous tribes and wildlife who live there.  Added to this is the fact that less carbon dioxide is being omitted in the transportation process and, again, it is true that everyone is a winner.

Those who switch to renewable energies are not only enjoying the cost savings in the present but are protecting themselves from a future in which fossil fuel supplies become increasingly uncertain: whether through scarcity, or geopolitical instabilities (instabilities which are in part, if not largely due, to the resources in question).

The use of wood pellets as biomass reduces the pressure on agricultural land to produce biomass/biofuel from crops such as corn or import biomass grown in other countries, where it might be robbing people of land for food.

Increased areas cultivated as woodland and managed sensitively for wood fuel will also help absorb storm water and surface water when there is flooding as tree roots absorb an enormous amount of water – they act like a sponge.

 

If you would like more information on how you can use biomass to heat your home or business then go to www.woodpellet-boilers.com

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