Wood Pellets Catch Fire as Renewable Energy Source

by Dave

Good opportunity here for Brazil and Uruguay as well.
WSJ.com

European utilities are snapping up the small combustible pellets to burn alongside coal in existing power plants. As a global marketplace emerges to feed their growing appetite for pellets, the Southeastern U.S. is becoming a major exporter, with pellet factories sprouting in Florida, Alabama and Arkansas.

Wood pellets — cylinders of dried shredded wood that resemble large vitamins — are the least expensive way to meet European renewable-energy mandates, utility executives and industry consultants say.

Made from fast-growing trees or sawdust, pellets are a pricier fuel than coal, but burning them is a less-expensive way to generate electricity than using windmills or solar panels.
The wood-pellet market is booming because the European Union has rules requiring member countries to generate 20% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Europe imported €66.2 million (about $92.6 million) of pellets and other wood-based fuels in the first three months of 2009, up 62% from the same period a year earlier, according to the EU’s statistical arm.

Pellets can either be made out of sawdust left over from lumber production or from soft-wood trees such as pine.
These aren’t growing in wild forests, but in industrial plantations where they can be harvested easily and often. Forest owners are ecstatic that pellet plants are stepping in. Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Vietnam are also shipping pellets to Europe, as are Canada and South Africa, said Helmer Schukken, CEO of GF Energy BV, a Rotterdam-based trader. Wood pellets are becoming the newest global commodity

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