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Seeing The Wood From The Trees

By Brian Mallalieu
Posted Thursday, November 22, 2007

Clearing a fallen tree, Bradford Dale - potential biomass energy source for a Sustainable Youlgrave, beyond carbon neutral.

A fallen tree is removed from Bradford Dale, Youlgrave.

The valley of the River Bradford has a potentially huge resource that currently is only partially tapped – woodland waste from thinnings.

Following a visit from the Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA) Forester and the regional Forestry Commission officer in 2007, we learnt that there is a potential of 4 tons/hectare of local wood waste available annually for use as fuel, if woodlands are managed properly. Having assured us this would be good for biodiversity and woodland life, they encouraged us to contact landowners. We began with PDNPA, who also spoke with Haddon and Stanton Estates on our behalf, and subsequently provided us with an area map showing woodland location,size and known ownership, which we are checking. Meanwhile, we have been approaching the remaining private landowners, as well as local sawmills. Other wood-waste sources could be joinery firms and a local community wood-pile of construction waste.

Although our regional ADAS initially gave us an estimated overall local woodlands figure of 196 hectares, research carried out by the National Park and ourselves suggests that there is in fact as much as 278 hectares. This would amount to 1,100 tonnes of woodfuel per year, which would equate to 1.1 MWh of electrical generation and over 2 MWh of heat. This assumes the woodfuel would be converted to producer gas in a gasifier, to fuel in turn a gas engine generating both electricity and heat (CHP), for use, say, in a local district heating scheme to offset existing energy supplies. However, developing gasification technology is not yet economically viable below say 1 MW capacity. In the meantime we are surveying potential sites (e.g. adjacent commercial buildings & residential homes) in Youlgrave for a micro-district heating scheme that will not require the highway to be excavated for the heating mains.

Only a proportion of the potential wood waste will be recoverable (although local sawmill, joinery and community residues might swell that figure?) but even then this could displace conventional fuels and offset a significant part of our existing carbon footprint. A local sawmill have the necessary plant and equipment to undertake woodland management (thinning) if landowners agree and are co-operative. When added to the potential from anaerobic digestion (and perhaps some energy crops?) biomass resources could well provide us with the means to go carbon neutral — and beyond.

Brian Mallalieu, Sustainable Youlgrave


All material is copyright of Sustainable Youlgrave, 2007 onwards

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