Energy Density of Wood v. Coal

A strange belief is pervading the ecos: that wood imported in enormous quantities from the US is an ecologically friendly way to generate power.  The energy density of wood chip is 870 kwh/m² and coal is 10.000 kwh/m². Do I need to say more? Biomass Energy Density figures. Drax needs up to 14 million tons of wood from the USA per annum alone. Tilbury B also operates using US sourced Bio-Mass. Tilbury A is closing shortly. The DECC has recently capped UK Bio-Mass at 500mw!

Didcot, Fawly and Kingsnorth power stations are to close by March 31st 2013. Forty years of employment and power generation is to end with no demand led power source on line to replace it. Common sense would suggest that the last decade should have seen upgrades in place such as is now happening in Germany. Not so as our Politicians sleep walk to disaster following a mistaken belief in the reliability of renewables.


The tax-payer funded Green Investment Bank has loaned £100 million to convert the Drax coal-burning power station in Yorkshire to burning wood. This is part of a financial package of one billion pounds to get green approval and renewable energy subsidies and avoid the need to buy carbon credits. 

Each year 7.5 million tonnes of wood chips will be imported from North American forests to replace 4.5 million tonnes of coal. This will consume about three million acres of forest per year. The wood will be cut, hauled, chipped, dried, trucked, shipped and then trucked again to Drax. 

As a result, Drax will produce a fraction of its former output at several times the price. 

You couldn’t make it up. 

To put this in perspective – under ideal growing conditions, a square mile of ‘sustainable woodland’ can give up to 1MW continuous of electrical power. So a 2000MW conventional power station would need a plot of about 45miles x 45 miles. 

There was a project in England to generate power from wood about a decade ago, called Project ARBRE, based on willow plantations. It was abandoned because harvesting the wood was problematic; doing it by hand was too expensive, and machines couldn’t do it adequately because they kept getting stuck in mud and scrub.

Nigel Deacon


About Dougal Quixote

Slightly mad. Always believes a cup is half full so continues to tilt at Wind Turbines and the politicians that seem to believe it is their god given right to ruin Scotland for a pot of fool's gold.
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3 Responses to Energy Density of Wood v. Coal

  1. dave ward says:

    “Not so as our Politicians sleep walk to disaster following a mistaken belief in the reliability of renewables.”

    I had a meeting with my MP recently, and despite showing her numerous graphs and articles (as I have on many previous occasions), she simply doesn’t see the problem. I reminded her that large scale power cuts WILL happen, and it won’t be like the last time (which I remember, but she doesn’t, as she wasn’t even born). She will be in for a rude awakening when the current generation find that their smart phones, and computers don’t work, to say nothing of all the other aspects of modern life that totally depend on electricity…

  2. Nashville Jam says:

    The article states: “The energy density of wood chip is 870 kwh/m² and coal is 10.000 kwh/m². Do I need to say more?”

    Yes, you definitely do need to say more because a measure of density would not have units of “/m2” (per square meter).

    It’s a density, the units should be per cubic meter.

    This kind of mistake can only happen when you really don’t understand what you’re talking about, or too careless to check the facts.

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