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clean energy from UK giant forest

Clean energy drive to turn UK into giant forest

Britain’s forest cover could double under a plan to map every underused piece of land for potential conversion to plantations to feed wood and crop-burning power stations.

Millions of fast-growing trees, such as eucalyptus and willow, could be planted on moorland, hillsides, former industrial areas and even land owned by conservation bodies such as the National Trust .

The trees would be turned into pellets and used to generate electricity in the rapidly growing number of biomass power stations. These stations are due to play a key role in reducing Britain’s emissions of carbon dioxide because trees absorb it as they grow. The new forests would be cut down and replanted in a continuous cycle.

The Energy Technologies Institute, a partnership between the Government and major energy companies, believes that up to 10 per cent of Britain’s land area, or 2.4 million hectares, could be converted to growing trees and tall grasses for biofuel.

Britain is the least-forested country in Europe, with trees covering only 12 per cent of the land compared with 28 per cent in France, 36 per cent in Spain and 74 per cent in Finland.

The institute is conducting a Government-funded study to identify which areas are the most suitable for conversion to plantations. The project is aimed at improving Britain’s energy security and reducing its reliance on imported wood.

Britain already imports more than five times as much wood in all forms, including paper, as it produces. The amount of foreign-grown timber consumed here is due to grow by 150 per cent because of plans for 16 large new biomass plants.

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Very roughly, a tonne of dry wood produces 3.5 MWh of heat or 1 MWh of electricity. 3 Million tonnes of wood should therefore produce 3 TWh of electricity, or just under 1% of what the UK uses at present.

Biomass-to-electric is a bit of a waste when you consider how much low-grade heat we need in the UK. Better to carry on building wind turbines for electricity until their variability becomes a problem, and let the wood go for warmth.

Comment about Eucalyptus: it's more trouble than it's worth. Coppiced Hazel's better. Typical yield between 2 and 8 Tonnes per Ha. So you'd need a lot of land!

Using biomass for electricity before we cut electricity demand by at least a third is daft.