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Huge Energy Potential In Wood Waste

August 11, 2004

The Govt is turning its attention to the vast amount of wood waste generated by NZ forests, which potentially could fuel power stations and generate more than 10% of the country’s total energy.

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) has commissioned a study into the potential of wood waste, in partnership with the Bioenergy Association, which estimates waste from plantation forests alone is between 4m and 6m tonnes annually.
With each kg of wood waste capable of producing 9MJ of energy, this equates to 45PJ a year. NZ’s total energy demand is around 470PJ. EECA expert John Stewart, who is working full-time to assess the energy potential of wood waste, believes the biggest obstacle to harnessing the resource is the cost of transporting waste from forests to the site of a generation plant.

If this can be overcome, there’s huge potential for small, locally distributed generation from purpose-built plants. “We’re trying to establish just what the costs are, in real terms, of transporting wood waste and we’re investigating ways of recovering it more cheaply.”
Stewart cites Northland and the east coast of the North Island as two obvious areas with potential to generate electricity from wood waste, because of their large areas of forests.

He also points to several successful wood-fired co-generation plants on sites where wood waste is easily available – for example, Carter Holt Harvey’s Kinleith mill where wood waste fuels a boiler that produces heat and electricity. The EECA study will assess how many boilers suitable for wood waste are already in existence in NZ.

Meanwhile, the wood processing industry has set up a Joint Energy Working Group, which has commissioned a series of studies into energy issues with the imminent demise of the Maui gas field. These studies will focus heavily on energy generation from wood waste and other bioenergy options.

The Govt has also pledged funding of $2.75m to the forestry sector to investigate bioenergy options. The funding is a trade-off for the Govt’s decision to take ownership of carbon credits from Kyoto forests, under the Forest Industries Framework Agreement.

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