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Wood Biomass

Wood biomass from Irish forests is a sustainable, renewable, carbon-neutral and indigenous source of energy.  It is predominantly used to generate thermal energy (heat) but is also used to generate electricity, or both heat and electricity, in Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants.

Ireland's renewable thermal energy requirement in the industrial sector is dominated by biomass, particularly in the wood products sector where wood is used extensively for process heat.  In 2009, the wood products sector accounted for 65% of industrial renewable thermal energy use and 43% of total renewable thermal energy use .

In the residential sector, which accounted for 25% of total renewable thermal energy use in 2009, wood biomass also dominates.  This is primarily due to grants under the SEAI Greener Homes Scheme for the installation of domestic renewable heating systems fuelled by woodchip, wood pellets and other renewable fuels. Between 2004 and 2009 use of renewable thermal energy in homes increased from 15 ktoe to 49 ktoe .

The ReHeat Programme provides support to the commercial, public and industrial sectors for the installation of wood chip and wood pellet boilers. By June 2010, some 163 biomass projects had received support under the scheme, with a combined installed capacity of 67.6 MWth.

In the 2007 Energy White Paper, the government set a target of 30% co-firing with wood biomass, at the three State-owned peat power stations, to be achieved progressively by 2015, beginning with Edenderry Power Station. Trials commenced at Edenderry in 2008.  In 2009, 66,000 tonnes of wood biomass were co-fired at the plant. It is estimated that wood biomass use at Edenderry Power could reach 300,000 tonnes by 2016.

There are currently two commercial wood-fuelled CHP plants in Ireland - at Grainger Sawmills Ltd and Munster Joinery Ltd, both in Co Cork -, with a combined capacity of 5 MWe and 4 MWth.

The total estimated demand for wood energy in 2011 is 0.95 million m3 and it is anticipated that will increase to 1.67 m3 by 2028. A recent COFORD  study estimated that up to 1.45 million m3 of wood fibre will potentially be available for the renewable energy sector by 2020, increasing to 1.81 million m3 by 2027.  The estimate assumes, inter alia, that increased volumes of small roundwood from thinning operations in the private sector, downgrade material from large assortments and wood residues from the processing sector will be available over the forecast period.  It should be emphasised that these volumes are potentially available - wood energy will have to compete with other end uses in order to secure the volumes indicated.