Britian’s North Yorkshire Drax power station was pitched as being the model for green power plants. Its reliance on wood pellets was to set the standard for renewable energy. Instead, what has resulted has been a disaster not just for the plant’s carbon emissions but also for Great Britain’s utility customers. The UK Daily Mail conducted research and discovered the plant has increased carbon emissions thanks to its usage of wood pellets rather than coal and England’s utility customers have seen their electric bills spike due to extra utility bill charges to dole out subsidies to Drax in order to use wood pellets instead of coal. What was purported to be England’s best manner to meet EU carbon emission restrictions is now its biggest contributor.<br /.
Whats worse is that US hardwood forests are being uprooted in order to supply Drax with a good portion of its wood pellets supply. Draw denies its pellet supply contributes to deforestation claiming it uses left over sawdust and sawmill residues along with left over wood from logging. The Daily Mail finds Drax’s statement highly questionable even though that the forests affected can, in theory, grow back. This, in turn, qualifies Drax for massive amounts of subsidies for the plant’s biomass operations.
One environmentalist group investigated one of Drax’s wood pellet supplies, Enviva, located in North Carolina last month whose investigation revealed pile of hardwood trees up to forty feet high being used to convert into pellets. Enviva denies this stating the wood pellets are the result of waste wood and the trees in question are used for construction. Some of the trees used to make pellets were diseased and determined to have no benefit other than being made into pellets. However, the Mail spoke to a senior forester who admitted on condition of anonymity that most of the quality of the hardwood trees are not good for saw mills and can only be used for pellets. Furthermore, the seeds being planted for reforestation are not the original species and grow back faster.
Drax still insists that their burning wood pellets has contributed to reducing greenhouse gasses going so far as to claim they have taken millions of cars off the road. However, a recent study by Dr. Thomas Buchholz of the Spatial Informatics Group, a team of environmental experts and scientists, states quite the opposite and concludes that wood pellets do burn more CO2 than coal or natural gas. When I read about this it reminded me of the Google scientists who said renewables will do nothing to curb greenhouse gasses. In this case, Drax power plant actually increases them despite it being a plant that is supposed uses a renewable energy source but, in reality, is not.