IS ALL FIREWOOD A RENEWABLE ENERGY?October 3, 2018
Which ever way you look at it, firewood is an important source of fuel in the world. It is classified as a biomass fuel. Biomass refers to the organic matter such as straw, vegetable oils, waste from forest, agricultural sources and other nature preserves, and of course wood. Currently, after solar power and hydroelectricity, biomass fuels are the most important sources of renewable energy in the world. As it stands, wood accounts for about 14% of the world’s energy supply worldwide.
Under wood fuel, there are various different categories, such as firewood, charcoal, chips, pellets, sawdust, and sheets. All the various types of wood fuel have their benefits and drawbacks at the same time. Charcoal for instance is a particularly efficient burner, but it takes a lot of wood mass to produce enough to use. This leads to a lot of trees being felled to create a little amount of charcoal in comparison. Sawdust on the other hand does not burn in any helpful way at all but is an essential part of making charcoal briquettes.
Charcoal briquettes are a relatively new way of recycling both wood and agricultural waste by creating a product that burns like charcoal. Since it has not been standardized as of yet, and it uses whatever waste by product lying around, the technology can make use of anything including sawdust, coffee waste, wood shavings, and animal waste.
Firewood on the other hand is the easiest type of wood fuel to acquire and use. Over time, it has been put to various uses, including cooking and foe lighting during the early days of man, and powering steam engines and steam turbines to generate electricity during the industrial revolution. Nowadays, it is used primarily for indoor heating and camp fires.
Is wood a renewable source of energy?
In order to answer this question, we must first define and understand what renewable energy is. This is energy that is generated from sources that are both natural and can be replenished continuously, such as sunlight, geothermal heat, water, wind and various forms of biomass. It cannot be depleted, since it is naturally being replaced within the ecosystem. Having said that, we can ascertain that wood is indeed a renewable energy source.
This is because when it is used as an energy source, we can more or less return the environment to its original state. This is something that cannot be done with fossil fuels such as oil and coal. With coal for example, the mining process leaves a series of holes in the ground and a lot of carbon gases in the atmosphere. With firewood, forests that have been pruned to produce firewood grow back, and trees are replanted where they have fallen due to age or environmental factors. Of course, the trees are not identical, but their effect of absorbing greenhouse gasses is still the same.
Using firewood in the home
For the longest time, the biggest downside to using firewood at home was the smoke. This is because the smoke is known to be unhealthy to breathe in high quantities. Not only does it have a chocking effect, it is known to cause certain respiratory diseases on people. Wood smoke can cause bronchitis, early onset asthma in children, and lung infections in the elderly. This is why in modern times, when fuel for indoor heating is becoming a problem, and more people are looking towards renewable energy, people have come up with solutions to this problem.
One of these is modern advanced burners that have been vigorously tested and certified to burn more efficiently with very little emissions. These stoves also require a lot less wood to burn, since they average an efficiency rating of between 68 and 75%. They also produce a lot less smoke emissions. Older stoves produced an average of 25 grams per hour while modern stoves have taken this to lower than 4 grams per hour. They have also taken measures to drastically reduce the amount of smoke that is released into the room while the stove is in use. In fact, the emission of polycyclic hydrocarbons such as fluorene as well as harmful organic compounds like Benzene and Xylene, have also been greatly reduced.
What about carbon in the atmosphere?
When firewood is used, the adverse effects on the environment are between negligible and none. This is because it does not form as much greenhouse gas (Carbon Dioxide) as fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas. While it is considered about half carbon by weight, its fuel has been found to be carbon neutral. This is because the equivalent carbon dioxide is absorbed by trees, saplings and vegetation.