Renewable Energy: Big Future for Tiny Pellets?

Renewable Energy: Big Future for Tiny Pellets?
Heating with wood pellets has become increasingly prominent in recent years due to cost-effectiveness, the availability of funding programs, and its image as a climate-friendly energy source. What is next for the mighty pellet?

When most people think of renewable energy, they usually imagine vast fields of solar panels and powerful wind turbines. However, an increasing number of basements in Europe also hide another kind of renewable energy source which shouldn’t be so easily overlooked. In Germany, wood pellets are made from 90% sawdust, which comes as the by-products of the logging industry, and 10% comes from non-usable forest residue. Thus, given sustainable forestry practices, wood pellets are a renewable energy source that quite literally grows on trees.

Europe as a whole accounts for around half of the world’s pellet demand and production. Furthermore, with around 3.5 million tons produced per year, Germany is by far the market leader in the production of wood pellets in the European market. Numerous pellet plants generate the energy for pellet production themselves by burning wood by-products such as bark. The result is a fuel source, which has been almost 20% cheaper than heating oil and natural gas over the past ten years. Adding to their attractiveness, producing a ton of pellets only releases about 30 kg of CO2 – a miniscule amount.

Contrary to popular belief, pellets are not only suitable for small-scale energy needs. For example, the Drax Power Station in the UK – formerly a coal plant – now produces over 10% of the country’s renewable energy by burning over 6 million tons of pellets per year. A similar project to refurbish a coal plant in Wilhelmshaven is currently ongoing in Germany.
Despite these advantages, the role of pellets in the European energy mix of tomorrow is surprisingly uncertain. While many view pellets positively, others are much more skeptical due to controversies over fine particle pollution, deforestation, and raw material supply. There is only so much sawdust from the logging industry to go around – once this well dries up, one might have to turn to imports from forest-rich countries.

Nevertheless, in Germany, heating one’s home with a new and efficient pellet stove is still subsidized if combined with a heat pump, undoubtedly a strong stopgap solution until the green energy revolution finally triumphs.

Thus, at least in the near future, pellets will continue to reliably heat millions of homes across Europe at a fair price.

Are you interested in further information?
Please do not hesitate to contact us:

Dr. Thorsten Böhn
Phone number +49 6201 9915 79,

Dr. Isabelle Symonds
Phone number +49 6201 9915 10,

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