Today, I have been in a meeting were representants from three small towns (Aramaio, Otxandio, Zerain) explained their intention to develop Distric Heating for the greatest part of their town using wood from their own lands. There were some differences in the concepts, the scope, the development stage and the size of the towns that ranges from 300 to 1500 inhabitants. At the same time, there were some interesting common points too:
- The Biomass from forests was the main energy source for our grandparents for more than 1000 years.
- The investment needed to start the system was a problem for most due to the low-budget of the towns but they all were considered that the change from oil or gas to local Biomass would make economic sense in the mid-term, and they had done detailed studies for that.
- It would also benefit local wood producers as their income would be fixed in the long-term.
- It would create local jobs.
- It would help to prevent wildfires.
- It would make environmental sense.
- It would complement well other local economic activities as tourism or sheep growing.
- It would be compatible with forest harvesting for more expensive use of wood.
- Their projects were based on local wood, a wood moving 100 Km would be too expensive.
- They would need more help than the one their are getting.
- And the last one, they have discarded other renewables after some preliminary studies.
And my own conclusions:
- Our forests can be used for different purposes at the same time and even if I usually do not mention land use it is an important issue in climate change.
- Biomass heating use of second quality wood is a nice substitute of gas or oil for small towns with forests, but can even work for Distric Heating of buildings in nearby cities. It will not heat everyone everywhere but can be part of the solution, and this is what we are looking for: partial substitutes of fossil fuels.
- Local approaches can be important, maybe more than in global emission numbers, as an example and motivation, like el Hierro island
- The only discouraging news was the low acceptance of other renewables in their studies, and the worst case of three small hydro power stations that were not used after being abandoned in the cheap oil times. Certainly, in some cases the information they got was not updated. But this is something that happens many times.