Switching from coal to pellets to save the environment?

One way governments have been trying to combat climate change is to subsidize renewable energy such as wind, solar and biomass. Wind and solar makes some sense since they do not emit any CO2, but biomass?

Ever since the people began to use fire to cook their food, biomass has been the  fuel of choice. In forested areas wood was preferred, but if there were no trees grass was used, and if there was no grass people used and still use dried cow dung. It is used to cook the meal of the day in an open fire, a primitive stove or a clay oven. It is very polluting, and the fertilizing properties of cow dung is lost, depriving the land of replenishing the ground. The environment would benefit immensely by switching to electric. The fastest and least expensive way to electrify developing countries is to build coal fired plants. The only benefit of cow dung is that it is locally produced, and transportation is one of the hindering factors for modernizing.

The lawmakers in the British parliament are very concerned about Climate Change, and to that end they legislated a de-carbonization project. The DRAX group jumped at the opportunity.

DRAX  is not a take off of Drax the destroyer, it is actually worse.

They used to burn coal. Now they burn biomass.

And it is dirtier.

emissions of particulates from the site [DRAX] were 897 tons last year compared to 382 tons in 2008 when they were still burning coal.”

The power station uses about seven million tons of biomass or wood pellets a year, much of it imported, particularly from the US”

“Last year, DRAX received subsidies of £558 million for its biomass operation, a figure that is expected to rise to around £800 million this year as the third biomass unit comes on stream.”


So they switched from coal to wood pellets and subsidized it to the cost of about 100 dollars a ton, and since they are producing electricity it is running at less than 40% efficiency. It would be far better to burn them in a cast iron wood/pellet stove, and burn clean at about 80% efficiency. No subsidies needed. Wood pellets or wood briquettes provide a wonderful heat, and it works even if the electricity is gone in an ice storm. And it burns much cleaner than coal or improperly dried wood.

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Retired engineer, graduated from Chalmers Technical University a long time ago with a degree in Technical Physics. Career in Aerospace, Analytical Chemistry, computer chip manufacturing and finally adjunct faculty at Pennsylvania State University, taught just one course in Computer Engineering, the Capstone Course.

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