Our mission is to do a better job at looking after the atmosphere than the energy industry has done to date. The atmosphere is a critical, shared resource and we will all need to come to terms with the fact that we live in a closed system. If we make the atmosphere unusable, we all die. Simples!
In our corner of the energy market, the big sustainability question continues to be about carbon recycling in the atmosphere and how efficient biomass energy really is at mitigating carbon dioxide emissions. There is a lot of conflicting information in the public domain at present.
Amongst all the (dis)information, one thing is very clear, at the time fossil fuels were formed (100s of millions of years ago), the process of putting the carbon underground enabled life to flourish as the atmosphere became breathable.
If you burn fossil fuels, you’re releasing that ancient carbon back into the atmosphere and it is effectively a net addition to atmospheric carbon. So, you can safely ignore the headlines you may have read vilifying biomass energy; they are almost exclusively published by NGOs and fossil fuel companies with their own political agenda and the science behind them is poor.
We will re-visit this subject as some of the ongoing research into carbon re-cycling is published.
In the meantime, what is a sustainable forest? Why is it important?
All the timber that we to produce our wood pellets comes from sustainably managed forests, which all sounds very good but what does it mean?
A sustainably managed forest is one where the planting and felling of trees is coordinated to ensure a regular supply of mature timber, maintenance of the forests’ eco systems and the biodiversity of the wildlife and its life cycles. Typically, within a managed forest there will be a mixture of different species of trees varying in age coming to maturity at different times.
A text book tree to timber life cycle:
A typical UK commercial forestry crop (eg Spruce, Larch etc.) has a thirty-year production cycle from planting to clear felling of the entire crop, with thinning typically taking place at years 7 and 15. New strains and species of trees have speeded up the lifecycle and further improvements are expected, particularly with fast rotation forestry and coppice type crops (eg Willow).
The forest sector is very efficient in its overall utilisation of the crop and markets are found for nearly all the components of a tree, including the branches (brash) for fuel use.
It’s all very well being told the timber we source comes from sustainable forests but how do we guarantee this for you? As with a lot of products whose source is of importance to the manufacturer and end user, there has been a third-party certification schemes since the 1990s. In fact, when it comes to timber there are over fifty certification schemes worldwide, the two largest and best known certification schemes are:
Within the UK and Europe, the predominate scheme is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®) scheme and this is the scheme that the timber we take in is certified under.
The FSC® covers the use of timber not just for biomass (wood pellets in our case) but for any end use, (you may have seen the ‘tree tick’ logo on furniture) the scheme ensures that the increased use of timber does not lead to a decrease in the size of the national forests. The Wood Heat Association has published a short film explaining how the
sustainable managed forestry industry has grown with the expansion of biomass heating, so you can be sure that your decision to use wood pellets does not lead to a decline in Britain’s woodlands and they will still be here for future generations to enjoy.