More Southern forests at risk from biomass plants, report indicates

Reply Wed 15 Feb, 2012 11:50 am
Feb. 15, 2012
More Southern forests at risk from biomass plants, report indicates
Sammy Fretwell | The State (Columbia, S.C.)

A new report says Southern forests are at risk from biomass plants that burn wood to make energy.

The report, released Tuesday by two environmental groups, says the expanding biomass industry will look at cutting trees to fuel the power plants, a departure from the current practice of using waste wood from sawmills and other sources.

The report raises questions about whether the South will have an adequate supply of waste wood, thereby increasing the need to cut trees specifically for biomass plants.

In addition to concerns about deforestation, the report says biomass plants could cause a spike in atmospheric carbon over the next 35-50 years. Carbon is a pollutant that contributes to climate change. Long-term carbon levels should drop, but researchers question whether that will be soon enough to help stop global warming.

The report was done for the Southern Environmental Law Center and the National Wildlife Federation by the Biomass Energy Resource Center and others.

The report looks at conditions at proposed and existing biomass plants in the Southeast, including six in South Carolina. Those plants are in Newberry, Darlington, Aiken, Charleston, Marlboro and Orangeburg counties, the report says. Region-wide, the study analyzed 17 existing and 22 planned biomass plants in seven states.

Biomass is an alternate energy source that boosters say could help reduce the nation’s reliance on coal and nuclear power plants, both of which have substantial impacts on the environment. Coal-fired power plants release toxic pollutants and greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Nuclear plants produce deadly waste.

Biomass would not be expected to replace coal or nuclear, but biomass plants could help diversify the nation’s sources of energy.

“While biomass offers some environmental benefits, any expanded use of logging residue and live trees will affect forest structure and nutrient cycling,” said Robert Perschel, eastern forests director with Forest Guild, which helped compile the report.

“This raises questions of long-term forest health and other environmental factors, such as water quality and wildlife habitat, that need to be addressed by further study and reasonable guidelines for the industry.”
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Reply Thu 16 Feb, 2012 12:12 am
after forests are removed, there could be a planting and harvesting of "Understory" plants that are perennials like Joe-Pye-Weed or Russian Olive or , sassafras or even palmettos in southern climes. Understory is in reality all the biomass. cause its hard to "shave trees" to trim off the years biomass and prep it for use in the power plants.

In Maine they have power plants located right along with pulp wood operations to provide power needs of the nearest town and the plant.
They burn the bark from trees. All logs get debraked and some get dropped from use by insoection so these become candidates for shredding and burning.

I think management of the forests is essential. I dont have a clue to the needed biomass to produce a given amount of watts of power but Im sure thats easily found, then we need to figure how much that means in acreage per year per megawatt hour.

There are pictures of the entire Appalachian Chain of mountains denuded of ALL trees as late as 1940. Much of whats in the Appalachians now is third growth forest not much older than 70 years. Thats why new growth wood is crappy its had lots of growing room all to itself, the rings are big and its worthless as wood so, we use it for pulp and now biomass.
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