Forestry Tasmania and wood-fired power stations
Forestry Tasmania (FT), a Tasmanian government-owned forestry agency, is proposing the construction of a series of wood-fired power stations.
On its website, Forestry Tasmania states that it "has been planning for a biomass plant in the south of the state for at least five years. When it developed the investment ready site at Southwood in the Huon Valley, Forestry Tasmania set aside an area for a biomass plant, to generate renewable energy from forestry debris that would otherwise be burnt. Using our international contacts, we are seeking investors for this exciting project. If successful, we will not only produce more electricity for the state, but reduce greenhouse gases and the amount of smoke generated by forest fires."
The ill-fated proposal by Gunns to build a new pulp mill in the Tamar valley incorporated a wood fired power station. A report proposing a major expansion of Tasmania's forest industry stated that it would "would burn lignin and waste as part of the production process to generate more than 180 MW. The excess green-rated power (about 50 per cent of total capacity) is equivalent to the current electricity demands of the greater Launceston area." Gunns itself stated that "the Pulp Mill will generate 180 MW of electricity from sustainable biomass each year. Around 90 MW will be used to power the operations and the remaining 90 MW will go into the electricity grid, replacing energy largely produced from burning coal and gas."
- 1 Southwood power station
- 2 Statements by Forestry Tasmania on Wood-Fired Power stations
- 2.1 RPDC Southwood hearings, 2002
- 2.2 FT's 2003-2004 Annual Report
- 2.3 FT's 2004-2005 Annual Report
- 2.4 FT's 2006-2007 Annual Report
- 2.5 FT's 2007-2008 Annual Report
- 2.6 Sustainability Charter, 2008
- 2.7 Evidence to Senate Select Committee, April 23, 2009
- 2.8 Ken Jeffreys May 2009 Column
- 2.9 Bob Gordon's Post European Trip report
- 2.10 Simon Groves September 2009 Column
- 2.11 Sustainability Report, 2008-2009
- 2.12 Dario Tomat Sir Victor Burley Lecture, October 2009
- 2.13 December 2009 Media Release
- 2.14 Legislative Council Government Business Enterprise Committee Hearings, December 2009
- 3 Articles and resources
Southwood power station
Proposed capacity of the Southwood power station
The proposed Southwood power station has been touted at several different scales. The Resource Planning and Development Commission stated in 2002 that the planning application sought for the site provided for a 50 megawatt power station, which would consume 300,000 tonnes of wood a year. The Newood website stated that the power station would be "approximately 35 MW", employ approximately 30 staff on site and "the steam may also provide heating for the drying plant at the rotary peel veneer mill and the sawmill kilns."
At the December hearing of the Government Businesses Scrutiny Committee, Bob Gordon, FT's Managing Director, told the committee that "we are probably looking at something between 10 and 15 megawatts to start off."
Greenhouse and other emissions from Southwood power station
The RPDC estimated that a proposed 50MW power station would generate 282,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year as well as 2,040 tonnes of carbon monoxide, 225 tonnes of nitrous oxides, 12 tonnes of N20, 25 of total suspended particulates.
Dario Tomat, the project manager for the Huon Wood Centre, told the RPDC that the fuel for the power station would comprise forest residues. The RPDC states that "forest residues would be recovered for power production, rather than burnt on the forest floor. He confirmed that ‘old growth ‘ forests would not be harvested for processing at the Wood Centre."
Water demands and issues
The RPDC considered that the proposed 50MW power station would consume 1233 megalitres would it would be used in the cooling towers of the power station. Of this, the RPDC stated that 1072 would be vented to the atmosphere as as steam, 161 megalitres would be waste water, 1 megalitre would be used in the sewage treatment plant and 160 megalitres would be used to irrigate nearby land.
The RPDC also notes that "If, however, the power station did not proceed, or if it were not technically feasible to recycle waste water through the cooling towers, then a surplus of wastewater would be produced on the Wood Centre site. The EAR considers it unlikely that the nominated irrigation areas could “accommodate the considerable surplus volume of effluent involved”. Surplus effluent might be discharged to the Huon River or a tributary stream but the DPEMP has not provided sufficient information to assess the impacts of that possibility."
The RPDC expressed concern about the proposed power station. It stated that:
- "There remain some serious information gaps related to construction and operation of a wood-fired power station. Specifically, more investigations are required into the geotechnical stability of the proposed site. Impacts on some landowners in the vicinity have not been ascertained. Local climatic baseline data has not been collected. Preliminary modelling of atmospheric emissions has not examined local dynamic factors such as cold air drainage or the possibility of fumigation events. There were different views about what constitutes ‘world’s best practice’ for the operation of a wood-fired power station and what emission standards should be applied. Furthermore, as noted above the estimates of greenhouse gas emissions appear open to question. We conclude that while it may be appropriate to confirm the permit for the power station, construction should not be commenced until further investigations have been carried out. Specifically this will include collection of local climatic data, geo-technical and hydro-geological investigations, atmospheric emissions and noise modelling and visual impact analysis."
- "Similarly, maximum ground level concentrations of atmospheric pollutants will occur downwind, probably on State Forest or Crown land. Although local wind directions have not yet been monitored it appears likely that Mr Fullard’s land, lying north west and within 2 km of the Wood Centre, may well receive relatively high levels of pollutants from the power station and heat plant stacks."
- "The disposal of contaminated process water and stormwater appears to be acceptable, but only on the presumption that the power station proceeds and is able to recycle waste water through the cooling towers. If either of these preconditions are not fulfilled, the whole question of waste water management would need to be reviewed."
The RPDC Commissioners concluded that:
- "Approval of a wood fired power station should be conditional upon the completion of further investigations, including assessment of geotechnical and hydrogeological factors, visual impact analysis, impact on private land located within 3 km of the site and more sophisticated atmospheric emission modelling, taking into account local climatic data. If, ultimately, the power station proposal does not proceed, it follows that the water balance for the Southwood site will need to be recast. Amended conditions relating to water abstraction and wastewater management would need to be set by the Board of Environmental Management and Pollution Control."
Condition G5 of the planning permit for the site states that the Director and the Planning Authority must be notified "if the commissioning of the Power Station has not been completed within six months of the commencement of operation of the first two production facilities on the land, and is unlikely to be completed within twelve months of the commencement of operation of the first two production facilities on the land".
The conditions also stated that "unless otherwise approved in writing by the Director" an air monitoring station "must be established 12 months prior to an application for building approval for construction of a power station." The conditions also specified that the location of the station must be at the nearest population centre adjoining the proposed plant. Part F of the permit set out particular conditions applicable to the proposed power station.
Statements by Forestry Tasmania on Wood-Fired Power stations
RPDC Southwood hearings, 2002
The RPDC summarised Forestry Tasmania's argument as:
- "Forestry Tasmania argued in favour of wood-fired power generation on two grounds. Firstly that wood waste was a renewable fuel and could be considered as a source of ‘green energy’ for the national grid if Basslink eventuates. "Forest growth, harvesting and regeneration over a constant land area are part of a carbon cycle that is greenhouse gas neutral. New forests on previously cleared land will sequester carbon."xxxiv Secondly, it argued that greenhouse gas emissions were already occurring through occasional regeneration burns and the power station would, by more efficient combustion, reduce absolute emission levels and dilute their effect by spreading them over the whole year."
FT's 2003-2004 Annual Report
"An application for accreditation of the biomass power station at the Huon wood centre was lodged with the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator during the year."
FT's 2004-2005 Annual Report
"The Forestry Growth Plan aims for new and improved forest and wood processing infrastructure, including roads, sawmills, wood-fired power stations and veneer plants at investment-ready Wood Centres ... Significant progress was also made as a result of Forestry Tasmania - proponent negotiations to build a biomass power station at the Huon Wood Centre."
FT's 2006-2007 Annual Report
In its 2006-2007 annual report, Forestry Tasmania listed as one of its "results" that it was involved in "ongoing discussions with interested parties in the development of a biomass power station". It also listed as one of its "future goals" that "FT is exploring opportunities for new biomass plant in the south to provide renewable energy".
FT's 2007-2008 Annual Report
In its 2007-2008 annual report, Forestry Tasmania simply re-iterated what it report in 2006-2007. It listed as one of its "results" that it was involved in "ongoing discussions with interested parties in the development of a biomass power station". It also listed as one of its "future goals" that "FT is exploring opportunities for new biomass plant in the south to provide renewable energy".
Sustainability Charter, 2008
In its Sustainability Charter, FT states:
- that one of its aims in managing "Carbon and climate change" consists of "promoting the use of wood products and the development of renewable biomass energy";
- that one measure to help improve air quality is "developing biomass energy options for the use of forest residue fuels";
- "with growing global interest in renewable energy there is an emerging opportunity to use forest residue fuels for energy generation."
Evidence to Senate Select Committee, April 23, 2009
- "The first of these is the use of forest residues for biomass energy, which offset emissions from energy generated from fossil fuels. 'Forestry Tasmania has development approval to construct a biomass energy plant at the investment-ready Huon Wood Centre. However, it is important that the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) scheme is based on science to ensure that we can successfully attract a suitable investor'".
Ken Jeffreys May 2009 Column
- "The best evidence that green groups in Tasmania are prosecuting an anti-forestry agenda, under the guise of climate change, is their absolute opposition to biomass energy. If they seriously wanted to reduce carbon emissions in regeneration burns, they would be campaigning to force Forestry Tasmania to pick up some of the residues, put it into an energy plant and replace some of the fossil fuel electricity coming across Bass Strait. In Europe, biomass is already accepted as a renewable energy source, and well supported by responsible environment groups committed to addressing climate change. WWF for example is campaigning to have 15 per cent of the OECD’s energy requirements met by biomass by 2020.
- "If we really want to prevent catastrophic climate change, we will have to make radical alterations to the ways in which we generate energy. One major solution lies in the contemporary, cutting-edge use of the oldest fuel known to man – wood. Woody biomass – also known as biomass from forestry and farming – has the potential to become a major source for future electricity and heat production. By utilizing modern and efficient technologies, biomass offers a source of clean energy that can gradually replace coal and other fossil fuels, bringing environmental benefits, supporting rural development and creating new employment opportunities." WWF Europe
Bob Gordon's Post European Trip report
"Wood fired power stations are not only accepted in Europe, they are actually encouraged. After the pressurised steam from wood fired stations is used to power turbines to generate electricity, the low pressure steam or very hot water is sold for central heating. Others are used just for central heating. For example in one town in Germany the wood fired station, which is in the grounds of a school, is used to heat not only the school, but the swimming pool, council buildings, and homes for the elderly. What’s more it’s all from wood waste such as limbs trimmed from trees. It’s clean, cheap and renewable. The wood fired power stations produce virtually no emissions and all that is left is ash which is mostly used on farms and sporting grounds. Just about every town in Finland and Sweden has one, there are a huge number in Germany and a very large newly-built station in Lockerbie in Scotland. Others have recently been built in Wales and France and in the US where Barack Obama has just offered $900 million incentive package for people to use wood waste to create renewable energy."
Simon Groves September 2009 Column
In a September 2009 column, FT Conservation Biologist Dr Simon Grove wrote that FT "has developed a set of ecologically-based rules for the generation of power from harvest residues, including both fine and coarse woody debris (CWD). Residues have traditionally been seen as an impediment to forest regeneration, and burning them after harvest has long been seen as a practical way of creating a suitable seedbed for new seedlings. Forestry Tasmania is currently encouraging interested businesses to put forward proposals to establish a biomass plant in Tasmania. Under any such power generation proposal, much of the CWD would be harvested to be burnt under controlled conditions in a biomass plant. Post-harvest regeneration burns would still be required; however, smoke levels from these burns are expected to be considerably lower."
- "FT research shows that producing power from CWD has a number of advantages, including:
- reducing waste
- reducing smoke levels
- offsetting carbon from fossil fuels
- adding value to Forestry Tasmania’s operations."
Sustainability Report, 2008-2009
In its 2008-2009 Sustainability report, FT states in the biodiversity section that:
- "Harvest residues, including both fine and coarse woody debris, have traditionally been seen as an impediment to forest regeneration, and broadcast burning after harvest has long been seen as a practical way of creating a suitable seedbed for new seedlings. Proposals for industrial fuelwood harvesting for power generation would see much of the coarse woody debris picked up and burnt under controlled conditions in a biomass plant. Our research and modelling over the past decade has demonstrated that coarse woody debris provides important habitat for a vast range of species. Consequently, we have developed and adopted rules to make sure a proportion of coarse woody debris is retained on the forest floor. For example, one third of the area subjected to clearfell and partial harvesting will be designated as off-limits for fuelwood collection."
The report also states that "In order to find viable alternatives to burning the residue remaining after harvesting, we have been exploring the advantages and disadvantages of biomass energy for a number of years. In order to add to understanding gained so far, our Managing Director attended the LIGNA World Fair for the Forestry and Wood Industries held in Hanover, Germany earlier this year. The environmental benefits of wood-fired power stations were obvious at this fair. It was also possible to gather information about the past 20 or 30 power stations that have been established in Europe, which are almost exactly the same as the ones we would like to see built in Tasmania. Modern biomass energy production is clean, cheap and renewable and produces virtually no emissions."
Dario Tomat Sir Victor Burley Lecture, October 2009
In October 2009, Dario Tomat presented the Sir Victor Burley Lecture 2009 at an event in Hobart organised by the Institution of Engineering and Technology. On FT's website, Tomat was described as a "former Hydro Electric Commission Energy Planning senior planner" who had "also worked with the Department of Premier and Cabinet Energy Policy Unity and has provided support to Forestry Tasmania over 10 years in the establishment of the wood centres in Tasmania. Last year he was guest lecturer on energy from biomass at the Future Climate Conference in Copenhagen."
In a media release, FT quoted Tomat stating that "forest residues could have a beneficial end use, not only as a fuel source for electricity, but with the right processing could provide liquid fuel for vehicles. It is possible to use gasification of the wood to produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen which can then be recombined for various energy end uses, including liquid fuels." However, it noted that while direct generation for electricity was an established technology, other technologies were still at the pre-commercialisation pilot stage.
“Tasmania has several hundreds of thousands of tonnes of wood each year that would be available. It has the potential to contribute several percentage points to our total energy savings," he said.
December 2009 Media Release
- "Dr Drielsma said Forestry Tasmania was still actively working towards the development of a biomass energy station at the Huon Wood Centre. 'If residues currently burnt on the forest floor were used to fuel a biomass energy plant, we could make an even greater contribution towards reducing Australia’s carbon emissions by replacing the equivalent amount of fossil fuels with a renewable energy source,' he said. 'Biomass power is a well-accepted form of clean, renewable energy in Europe and North America. Unfortunately in Tasmania, some environmental activists are still opposed to the concept.'
Legislative Council Government Business Enterprise Committee Hearings, December 2009
- Mr Gordon - "Basically, everything went on hold until that [the renewable Energy target legislation] was passed, and now it has been passed we have had another flood of expressions of interest in doing a wood-fired power station at Huon based on, firstly, the waste resource on site from the rotary veneering sawmill, and bringing in some of the wood that would otherwise have been burned in regeneration burns. So we are back full bore on that, it has just been effectively three years -
- Ms Forrest: - So you are optimistic that will actually finish like that?
- Mr Gordon - I am very optimistic that will happen.
- Ms Forrest - Yes. Just on that point, is there any likelihood at the Smithton Ta Ann plant?
- Mr Gordon - Their current boiler does not have enough thermal capacity and pressure to run a turbine, but again there is enough wood resource in that area to probably generate a couple of megawatts. We were floating the option that maybe one of the potential uses of some of the McCain ex-infrastructure would be a small biomass power station to be created there, because as you know, Smithton is on the end of the network, so if something happens, such as a farmer runs through a pylon, then everyone else gets cut out. But if you had a generator on the end, it would actually change some of that and certainly would be more reliable than wind.
- Ms Forrest - Is that just an idea at the moment or is it more substantial?
- Mr Gordon - It is an idea because I only found out about McCain shutting down last week.
- Ms Forrest - Did you?
- Mr Gordon - Yes, I have been away.
- Mr Harriss - Just on that Newood, if I can, extending that a bit: where else in the world are there bioenergy generators and how many of them have you had discussions with? I do not need to know specifics but just a broad grab of that.
- Mr Gordon - There could be several hundred thousand.
- Mr Harriss - And just finally on that, what size power station would you be looking at or considering at the Huon site?
- Mr Gordon - We are probably looking at something between 10 and 15 megawatts to start off.
Gordon went on to tout the position of WWF in Europe where it supports biomass power stations before taking a swipe at Australian groups which oppose it. "For some reason that I really cannot understand, unfortunately some of the green groups in Australia oppose renewable energy and I know it is sort of a religious thing that they do not like trees being chopped down but there is a huge potential in Australia for biomass renewable energy and nearly all of it will replace fossil fuels," he told the committee.
Discussing the substantial downturn in the pulp market and its impact on contractors, Gordon said that "we are doing everything we can to develop - for example, the wood-fired biomass power station will create another couple of hundred thousand tonnes of activity for people throughout the State. Wood that is currently being left on the ground and burnt in regeneration burns can be picked up and transported - there is work there for harvesters and contractors and the transport contractors; the sooner we get some of those things going, the better."
Articles and resources
Related SourceWatch articles
- The Forests & Forest Industry Council and wood-fired power stations
- Gunns proposed pulp mill power station
- Forestry Tasmania, "Biomass – a new form of renewable energy", undated, accessed January 2010.
- Forests & Forest Industry Council, The New Forest Industry Plan, January 2010, page 81 (see footnote 22 at the foot of the page).
- Gunns Limited, "The Facts", Gunns website, May 2007.
- Resource Planning and Development Commission, Hearing of Representations: Draft Amendment BY and s.43A permit: Huon Planning Scheme 1979, (“Southwood”)", Resource Planning and Development Commission, page 14.
- Newood, "Power station", Newood website, accessed January 2010.
- "Forestry Tasmania", Legislative Council - Government Businesses Scrutiny Committee, Hansard, December 1, 2009, page 36.
- Resource Planning and Development Commission, Hearing of Representations: Draft Amendment BY and s.43A permit: Huon Planning Scheme 1979, (“Southwood”)", Resource Planning and Development Commission, page 20.
- Resource Planning and Development Commission, Hearing of Representations: Draft Amendment BY and s.43A permit: Huon Planning Scheme 1979, (“Southwood”)", Resource Planning and Development Commission, page 16.
- Resource Planning and Development Commission, Hearing of Representations: Draft Amendment BY and s.43A permit: Huon Planning Scheme 1979, (“Southwood”)", Resource Planning and Development Commission, page 22.
- Resource Planning and Development Commission, Hearing of Representations: Draft Amendment BY and s.43A permit: Huon Planning Scheme 1979, (“Southwood”)", Resource Planning and Development Commission, page 23.
- Resource Planning and Development Commission, Hearing of Representations: Draft Amendment BY and s.43A permit: Huon Planning Scheme 1979, (“Southwood”)", Resource Planning and Development Commission, pages 37 - 38.
- Resource Planning and Development Commission, Hearing of Representations: Draft Amendment BY and s.43A permit: Huon Planning Scheme 1979, (“Southwood”)", Resource Planning and Development Commission, page 43.
- Resource Planning and Development Commission, Planning Permit: Forestry Tasmania", September 7, 2001.
- Resource Planning and Development Commission, Hearing of Representations: Draft Amendment BY and s.43A permit: Huon Planning Scheme 1979, (“Southwood”)", Resource Planning and Development Commission, pages 19- 20.
- Forestry Tasmania, "Annual Report 2003-2004", Forestry Tasmania, page 14. (Pdf)
- "Annual Report 2004 - 2005", Forestry Tasmania, pages 16-17. (Pdf)
- Forestry Tasmania, Annual Report: 2006 - 2007", Forestry Tasmania, October 2007, page 43.
- Forestry Tasmania, "Annual Report: 2007 - 2008", Forestry Tasmania, October 2008, page 90.
- Forestry Tasmania, "Sustainability Charter", Forestry Tasmania, October 2008. (Pdf)
- "FT calls for recognition of wood products in carbon trading", Media Release, April 23, 2009.
- Ken Jeffreys, "Anti-forestry agenda risks climate change solution", Branchline, Forestry Tasmania, May 25, 2009.
- Bob Bordon, "Wood fired power – clean and renewable", Brabchline, Forestry Tasmania, June 18, 2009.
- Simon Groves, "Forest power", Brabchline, Forestry Tasmania, September 18, 2009.
- Forestry Tasmania, Stewardship Report: 2008-2009", Forestry Tasmania, October 2009, page 14. (Pdf)
- Forestry Tasmania, Stewardship Report: 2008-2009", Forestry Tasmania, October 2009, page 35.
- "Energy potential of wood residue", Media Release, October 21, 2009.
- "Positive contribution to reducing carbon"m, Media Release, December 1, 2009.
- "Forestry Tasmania", Legislative Council - Government Businesses Scrutiny Committee, Hansard, December 1, 2009, page 36.
- "Forestry Tasmania", Legislative Council - Government Businesses Scrutiny Committee, Hansard, December 1, 2009, page 38.
- "Forestry Tasmania", Legislative Council - Government Businesses Scrutiny Committee, Hansard, December 1, 2009, page 38.
- "Southwood Resources Environmental Impact Assessment", Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment website, accessed January 2010.
- Raison R J, Kirschbaum M U F, McCormack R J, Attiwill P M, Richardson A M M from the CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products, "Review of the science relevant to the sustainable use of native and plantation forest-harvesting residues for energy production in Tasmania", Client report for Forestry Tasmania, National Power, and John Holland Development and Investments, Final Report 31 May 2002.
- SEMF Holdings, "The Wood Centre Development: Southwood Resources - Huon: Development Proposal and Environmental Management Plan, Forestry Tasmania: Chapter 10: Power Station", September 6, 2009. (Pdf)
- Huon Valley Environment Centre, "Southwood & Wood-fire Power", Huon Valley Environment Centre website, undated, accessed January 2010.
- Huon Valley Environment Centre, "Southwood Forest Furnace NOT Renewable Energy", Huon Valley Environment Centre website, April 2008.
- Forest Industries Association of Tasmania, "Submission by the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania to The Renewable Energy Sub Group Secretariat Renewables, Offsets and COAG Branch Department of Climate Change", July 30, 2008.
- Dario Tomat, "Biomass: Technologies for energy production", September 18, 2008.
- Michael Wood, Assistant General Manager - Strategic Business, Forestry Tasmania, "The benefits of using forest harvesting waste and timber industry waste to generate renewable energy in Tasmania and Australia", Forestry Tasmania, March 2009. (Pdf)
- Sue Neales, "Forestry rethinks wood power", The Mercury, December 1, 2009.
- Sue Neales, "Forestry's power plant plan", The Mercury, December 2, 2009.
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