Scientists from around the world have become embroiled in a war of words over energy created from burning trees. A recent report claimed that burning wood for electricity if worse for the climate than using coal, prompting major questions and enquiries over how we should generate electricity whilst preserving our environment.
Producing electricity from burning biomass such as trees has boomed in recent years, with the amount of energy generated doubling between 2005 and 2015. Many energy firms around the world have seen it as a more reliable green power source compared to using wind or solar power. The EU, the world’s biggest consumer of biomass, with some imported as wood pellets from Southern USA. At the current rate, bio-energy is expected to contribute more than half of the EU’s renewable energy by 2020.
Burning down trees also costs a lot of money, with subsidies worth £800m paid by the UK government for biomass electricity in 2015.
The study also showed that the amount of time it would take to re-absorb the carbon produced from burning of pellets was critically important. With scientific concern over the world, the world only has a few more years to make significant cuts in carbon dioxide levels, opting for a policy that would also take many decades to achieve carbon payback was dubious.
The idea that burning wood released more carbon dioxide than coal has enraged those who work in the biomass industry and people who carry out research. Many of them described it as “it gives an inaccurate interpretation of the impact of harvesting on the forest carbon stock”. The author argued that there is no accounting for the sole carbon lost during the harvesting of these trees and that older trees used for burning can sequester far more carbon than younger ones planted in their stead.
Whatever may happen in the coming decades, the fact that we need trees to survive does not go away from us, therefore a global limit should be put in place stating the number of trees than can be used to generate energy. With growing levels of deforestation globally, there is more CO2 in the atmosphere, which if increased could cause serious health problems and create an unpleasant environment for us to live in…
30 years ago, the world witnessed one of the most catastrophic nuclear accidents in history, causing death to 31 people and leaving hundreds of thousands displaced and homeless. 26th April 1986 after a safety test/experiment the reactors began to meltdown and lead to an explosion releasing radiation into the atmosphere. The disaster happened at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Pripyat Ukraine. To this date, there has been an exclusion zone of roughly 2600km squared in and around the power plant, with the land being completely unoccupied. This area once housed 120,000 people. The area is considered as too contaminated for residential and agricultural use. However, recently, the Ukrainian government wants to turn part of the exclusion zone into a solar farm. By 2005 deaths tallied up to 4,000 from the effects of radiation and cancer.
Could the world’s worst nuclear accident get a new lease of life?
Apart from a handful of radiation hot-spots, the exclusion zone has become safe to visit, as long as you’re staying for a short period of time. With the successful installation of the new sarcophagus, which will seal the damaged reactor for 100 years, the disaster site is about to see renewed activity.
A large field of 25 acres, which will be filled with solar panels, would generate 5MW. This solar farm would generate a huge amount of power. Along with the existing high-voltage infrastructure, there is an existing population trained in power plant operation.
Solar panels generate electricity from the Sun’s protons, storing electrons within a top layer of silicon that then flow to another silicon layer on the bottom. This generates an electric current. There are over 40 different types of solar panel technology available. With Chernobyl lying on the same latitude as Southern England, this offers excellent solar power generation. Furthermore China have been encouraging people to use damaged and contaminated areas for solar power and wind power farms to generate electricity.
Meanwhile this is just a plan for building solar panels in Chernobyl. Further discussion and talks by the government are deciding to reuse this abandoned space of land to generate more electricity, the magnitude of the project is large and so financially a lot of preparations need to be made. The dome proposal is set to cost £1.5 billion, and will last for 100 years, another excessive amount will be needed to build the solar panel. There is still dangerous amounts of radiation in Chernobyl, that will still take many years to go away.