Burning pellets for heating has led to a drastic lowering of the CO2 emissions. At the same time, forestry framers are achieving better and fairer prices for their wood off cuts and leftovers. In Austria alone there are more Biomasseheizungen being installed every year than oil heaters. May the day come when trees are not being turned into toxic building materials!
The last active windmill in Austria is as much an example as all the other tourist attractions of this vine growing area which is so very rich in culture and beautiful attractions!
Only a decade later, Biomasseheizungen and wood pellets are vital parts part of the international climate discussions in politics.
Now we make the best use of it by burning it in our heating system and keeping our environment clean and pristine."
Guest and visitors are most welcome to have a good look around the village to find out how localizing the energy supply has empowered this community. The use of gentle energy has a long tradition here.
"On nice days, the sun is enough to keep us warm. When the weather is cold and foggy, we burn the wood off cuts collected from local sawmills, carpentries and leftovers from the forest. Over the last years the price for this kind of wood has dropped so low that it is not worthwhile to sell it.
1996 in spring 70 more buildings in the idyllic vine growing village in 'Retzer Becken', Austria, have been connected. This means that 70 old and faulty individual heaters have been replaced by solar panels plus the burning of wood off cuts.
It houses a storage area for firewood, the boiler and two huge buffer storage both of which have been buried two thirds into the ground. The water in the tanks is heated by either solar power or burning wood chips and sent hot to the homes and buildings which are connected to the system.
Heating with renewable biomass at the push of a button is no utopian dream anymore.
The 'Bramberg' village centralized biomass power station is accommodated in a wooden building. You wouldn't notice any difference to an agricultural farm building, only the fact that the southern aspect is equipped with solar collectors.
It has reached a stage now, where it is possible to build very small units that generate sufficient energy for single family homes. these small furnaces include an automatic stoker and ash removal. Generic versions are available in sizes suitable for single households up to large plants.
The warmth which is generated by a centralized biomass power station is nothing else than sun energy stored in growing trees and closes a natural cycle. The technical advancements of biomass combustion are not only available to a few privileged communities.
Even just a generation ago, this was unthinkable. Today it is possible thanks to the advancements made in the heating and combustion technology.
Environmental impact study, emissions from central heating plants in kg/TJ
The biomass power station in 'Bramberg' has now been running for many years and the unthinkable became reality. This small power station is able to supply the whole village with warmth. The emissions sank to less than those generated by just one family home with a badly adjusted oil heater.
"Maybe we should try it out?"
Isn't it crazy to heat our buildings with fossil fuels from afar, which have been mined and transported around the whole world and at the same time, our local woodchips and wood waste is being trucked to far away countries. It's not surprising that people living in the valleys are complaining about the amount of trucks on the roads.
Two Villages are Firing Up
The saying goes: "The farmer won't eat what he doesn't know!"
In the local inn of the small village 'Bramberg' in 'Salzburger Land', discussions were running hot about a proposed project they called: 'Hackschnitzelheizung'.
"They want to build a heating plant for our village? One which burns wood chips? That must be a joke! It wouldn't work, impossible!"
According to statistics of the forest inventory, only half of the combined yearly re-growth from Germany and Austria together is being harvested. Most of it is being used in a wasteful and toxic way.
The use of toxic wood preservatives, paints and glues has turned modern wood products into toxic waste which cannot be returned to nature and close this wood cycle.
When we recognize this ingenious and simple resource and integrate our ways into the natural cycle, we will be able to fully replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.
Here in Austria, if we were to use wood as building material for our homes (from the floor to the roof, furniture, heating, thermal power stations, to make paper) we still couldn't use up the yearly re-growth of wood. There still would be enough trees left to decay and mulch the forest floor.
Once we use this vast energy resource, our "solar powered generator forest" more effectively, we need less power plants, storage, transport and infrastructure. Our forests are the most energy rich resource available to us and we need to treat and manage nature's gift in a useful and sensible manner.
The energy used to produce 1 aluminum window could produce 126 Timber / Wood windows.
This comparison can be applied to all types of building materials. Think about flooring (wood or synthetics), insulation (hemp or foam), doors, stairways, furniture and much more.
For example, the choice of a wooden window means that only a 126th part of the energy is used compared to an aluminum window. Or the other way around, you could use the same energy which is being used to install one house with aluminum windows to fit 126 houses with wooden windows!
Compare the energy usage to produce windows, doors, floors, building, furniture, etc.
They are of manmade substances and turn wood into toxic waste which is not biodegradable when composted or released into the air and waterways.
The example of our middle European countries shows that all building materials and energy required for our daily life could be covered from sources which are harmless to our environment. Every architect and builder could save an incredible amount of energy which is now being wasted.
We need to fulfill just one important criterion to keep this wonderful system running: treat wood only with natural products, so it can be released back into nature's cycle and decompose. In other words, avoid using chemical treatments, paints and adhesives.
Maybe sit back for a moment and remember the last time you went for a walk through the forest. Can you feel the soft ground under your feet, the cool, fresh, spicy and healthy air? Don't you think that the air is freshening, solar power generating, wood producing forest is a divine gift? It serves us daily free of charge and without fail. There is not one day where nature doesn't work for us.
We can best avoid environmental and climatic damage if we tune into natural energy cycles. We finally need to recognize the options nature presents us in form of renewable resources and learn how to use wood in ways which will allow us to safely recycle it after we have used it as furniture or building timber.
Science still is unable to identify the exact causes and prospects of the anticipated climate changes on earth and this causes endless political and environmental debates. There is no doubt that globally the average temperature has risen since 1880. If we keep wasting oil, gas and coal and continue plundering our planet, the whole/hole in the ozone layer will be of secondary importance.
The three most complete global temperature records available - from the UK Hadley Centre, NASA, and the US National Climate Data Centre - all show a clear upward trend in global average temperatures over the last 150 years (calculated using an 11 year running average).
Greenhouse gases are mainly carbon monoxide, methane, nitrogen and FCKW. They prevent the radiation of heat from the earth into space and thus contribute to the rising temperatures on earth. The measured concentration of these gases (apart from FCKW which has only been introduced in the last few decades) has risen constantly since 1800.
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