Distributed Heating to Reduce Climate Change

Greenhouse gas emissions could be significantly reduced under a new plan to heat homes by district rather than individually.

Instead of each individual house having its own collection of fan, gas and wood heaters, districts would be heated from a central location, and according to the authors of the study the plan would not only significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions but would also be tremendously cost effective.

Reducing the Impact of Climate Change

The idea comes from a report to be presented at the United Kingdom’s first bio conference – BioTen – which started Tuesday the 21st in Birmingham, and was prepared by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research as a means of highlighting the benefits of using sustainable fuels rather than fossil fuels.

Scientists at The University of Manchester, the direct authors of the report, believe that using sustainable wood and other biofuels could be the key to lowering the carbon emissions believed to be causing the global climate change phenomenon.

“Bioenergy could play a very important part in helping the UK meet greenhouse gas reduction targets that will help to reduce the impact of climate change,” said Dr Patricia Thornley, from the School of Mechanical Aerospace and Civil Engineering at The University of Manchester.

“Heating homes with wood reduces greenhouse gas emissions because plants and trees absorb carbon dioxide when they are growing and then re-release it when they are burnt for heating – so the only increase in greenhouse gas emissions are those involved in things like harvesting and processing the fuel.”

“This work has taken a detailed look at all those emissions and established that even when we take them into account, there are still huge greenhouse gas savings to be made.

Sustainable Fuels

The key to this idea is the use of sustainable biomass, that is, not harvesting material from existing forests and ecological regions but creating bred-for-the-fire forests.

Using a combination of imported forest residues and locally grown energy crops would, according to Dr Thornley, reduce emissions and save on fossil fuels. Previous work by the University of Manchester found that using sustainable biomass could supply at least 4.9% of the UK’s total energy demand, a saving of 18 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, the equivalent of around 2.7 million households.

“If we can combine the low-carbon wood with really efficient heating systems, that offers an efficient and cost-effective route to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions,” said Thornley.

“The challenge for the industry now is to concentrate on developing new efficient and cost-effective technologies for biofuel production and to concentrate on getting the heating technologies deployed in the right environment.”

Source: University of Manchester
Image Source: bortescristian

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