How Wood Is Used for Energy

Fireplacefire

Metapolisz Images through Wikimedia Commons

Doesn’t that fire look inviting? So what’s the scoop on firewood?

According to John Zerbe and FPL’s Mark Knaebe of the Forest Products Marketing Unit, cordwood is the most common kind of wood fuel we like to burn. The most common way of using cordwood for fuel is to burn pieces about 1–1 ½ feet long that are split from logs. We burn much of such wood in our fireplaces and wood stoves today, and, formerly, such firewood provided the main fuel source for home heating, domestic hot water, and food preparation. Wood is still used for heating some homes in industrial countries. Usually heat is not produced efficiently in fireplaces, but some fireplaces are sealed with glass doors and designed to use blowers to be more effective. Stoves and furnaces burn firewood more efficiently and are getting much cleaner.

However, for some applications, wood is converted to other forms of fuel that are more convenient, waste less energy, and are less prone to emit undesirable particulates and other pollutants to the air. Examples of other kinds of fuel are manufactured fireplace logs (firelogs), which are made from waste wood and wax to provide open-hearth warmth and ambience with clean fuel. More recently, however, the main alternative to cordword is wood pellets, the main advantage of which is their dryness and their ability to be automated.

Considering Wood for Energy? There's an app for that.

22_fossil_wood_diagramThe U.S. Forest Service released a Wood Energy Financial App for use by community and business leaders seeking to replace fossil fuel with wood energy. The app allows users to do a simple and quick analysis to see if wood energy is a viable alternative for their community or small business.

The app is offered as part of the Community Biomass Handbook eBook. The Community Biomass Handbook walks users through the initial states of project scoping and pre-feasibility analysis by providing:

  • Guidance – Matching project motivations and local resources with appropriate technologies and investment pathways
  • Personal stories – Identifying what has worked in other places with common financial and technical challenges faced
  • Options – Checklist of possible products with important planning and investment considerations
  • Project screening – Initial financial assessment using the Wood Energy Financial App