Do critics challenge the sustainability of biomass as a fuel for generating electricity?

Wednesday, May 19, 2021
By Jacob Alabab-Moser

The benefits of converting coal-fired power-generating plants to biomass fuel sources are disputed by some scientists, although European energy policies have encouraged the practice.

Objections rest on complex evolving assessments of the interaction of forest regrowth and carbon dioxide absorption. It takes a long time to regrow wood used for fuel, perhaps too long for the source to be considered truly carbon-neutral. An M.I.T. expert, John Sterman, tells Physics World that burning wood “produces more CO2 than if the power station had remained coal-fired.”

A U.K. plant run by the Drax Group has converted most of its generating capacity from coal to biomass, burning wood pellets, and points out that the wood pellets it uses are mostly obtained from wood byproducts and waste. The plant burns more wood in a year than the U.K. produces, and imports its supply from the U.S.

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