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Wood Use Around the World: France 

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Wood France

In the first of our series of articles looking at wood uses around the world, we’re heading to France. In France, wood is the number one source of renewable bioenergy. Wood is used mainly to produce heat for homes and industry, while a small fraction generates electricity.

Wood Use Around the World-Why France is Turning to Wood Energy

In a time of serious concerns about climate change, reducing the use of fossil fuels makes a lot of sense. Generally, there are signs that this is already happening. At one of France’s largest power plants in the Provence region, wood is gradually replacing coal as a fuel.

Then there’s the current situation in Ukraine which means France is keen to reduce its reliance on Russian oil and gas.

What Type of Wood is Used For Energy?

Several different forms of wood end up in wood-fired power plants to create energy including:

  • Logs
  • Branches
  • Bark
  • Sawdust
  • Sawmill waste
  • Joinery offcuts

How Does Wood Become Energy?

There are a few ways wood is transformed into energy:

It’s burned in a boiler

This produces steam which powers machines and heats buildings.

It goes through a ‘gasification’ process

No, we didn’t just make that word up. It’s a process whereby wood is subjected to high heat and pressure in a low-oxygen environment. This produces biogas which generates electricity.

Wood Use Around the World: The French Stats

Around 7 million households in France depend on wood as a source of heating. Wood is the most commonly used form of renewable energy. Here are the stats on how it stacks up against other renewables.

  • Wood 40% (% amount of renewable energy that’s produced)
  • Hydropower 20%
  • Biofuel 11%
  • Heat pumps 8%
  • Wind 8%
  • Solar energy 3.4%

(2015 figures)

Residential properties use around 76% of wood energy that’s produced while 24% is used in the district heating, commercial, and industrial sectors.

Wood Energy Use in French Industry and Public Buildings

Aside from residential use, there are other public buildings that rely on wood energy:

Businesses that use heat in industrial processes;

District heating plants heat urban areas and public buildings.

There are around 5000 district heating plants. They are mainly funded by Fonds Chaleur, a fund created in 2009 to encourage the development of renewable heat production.

Is Wood Energy Really All It’s Cracked Up To Be?

Yes, because:

It Doesn’t Emit Lots of CO2

Wood is renewable as trees grow back. Plus, the carbon trees absorb and store goes some way to offsetting emissions from wood burning.

It’s Cost-Effective

Wood prices are fairly stable, especially when it’s locally sourced.

It Creates Jobs

Wood energy creates jobs in harvesting and power plants. However, there are some drawbacks.

Wood Burning Does Emit Particles and Gases

Most of the time, wood burning produces only CO2 and water. However, sometimes it emits nitrogen oxides, dioxins, volatile compounds, and soot.

It Can Contribute to Deforestation

Poorly managed forests and illegal logging can cause deforestation. This spells bad news for the planet, wildlife, and local communities.

So as well as being the perfect eco-friendly material for timber products for your home and garden, wood is a great biofuel. It’s powering a lot of French homes and businesses, and you never know, one day it could be powering ours! For more interesting articles and to find out more about wood across the world, check out our blog.

This entry was posted in Environment

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