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Japan eyes 'energy forests' for woody biomass power generation

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And who will engage in this business ?

University students?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Hopefully they will be getting rid of all those unnaturally planted trees causing so many allergies in this country.

Also they will hopefully not cut down all the trees at once from slopes causing mudslides like they so often stupidly do.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Hopefully they will be getting rid of all those unnaturally planted trees causing so many allergies in this country.

If the Pharma lobby let them.

Don't hold your breath.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Yes I was going to say as above stop subsidies for planting millions of trees that produce pollen, there are trees that don't produce pollen. But as above the drug companies are reliant on the seasonal allergies for profit. It's a sop only there will never be a shift to alternative energy untill the government work out how to cash in themselves. The system of corruption takes time to change. While we wait.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Wrong.

Use city garbage and food waste to fuel biomass plants.

Then stop growing sugi which is an environmental disaster and instead use Japan's forest areas for growing quality hardwoods - oak, walnuts etc native to Japan and also revive the traditional charcoal sector.

Then Japan - stop sponsoring the deforestation of tropical forests in SE Asia for cheap BBQ charcoal and housing material imports.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

It's called Butanol, and all countries did this during WW2. The only problem is getting stations to put in the special pumps.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

resource-poor Japan

I hate this term - Japan has huge amounts of energy - solar, wind, geo-thermal....

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Northern countries use garbage to generate power, recycling almost everything, they have an underground pipe system that sucks trash directly to the power plants. It's not new technology just not Japanese so useless in the land of the rising brown envelope.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Lots of "could" and "is believed" in this article. For zoning, woodland in Japan is "山林", literally forested hillsides. All of that amazing tree harvesting technology that reduces standing trees to a pile of stripped 4m logs in about 90 seconds on Youtube can't be used on slopes. The lie of the land in Japan makes forestry very inefficient, a problem if the only value you are getting out of the extracted wood is heat for electricity production.

Sugi are a problem, but I don't think this is the solution. Trees that grow at 2.5 times the rate of sugi sounds like it must be some kind of coppicing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If only japan had sunshine. Or wind. Or waves. Or geo-thermal activity, it would be great!

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Firstly this article is misleading "Japan currently depends on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power to generate 17 percent of its electricity" but the vast majority of this renewable energy is from Hydro (10% of the total) not solar and wind.

Secondly, Japan's current electricity grid doesn't promote a high penetration of variable renewable energies (VRE)(Solar,Wind). I did my masters thesis on the curtailment issue in Kyushu region, and it's clear that without improving the intergrid electricity transfer between regions, there will be unsustainable levels of RE curtailment in the future as VRE levels increase

Thirdly, while forests do absorb CO2, if you chop them down and burn them, then you release that CO2, so at best it's carbon neutral, but all the planting, harvesting, transporting etc is done via fossil fuels. Point is, this is not the solution for Japan massive appetite for electricity, this would only account for a tiny percentage of electricity demand. Japan needs grid infrastructure development, RE diversification and policy changes.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

@Alex you are a Heretic, a heathen how dare you! Policy changes! you are mad. Infrastructure changes...that's just over the top. You should be burnt at the stake for such thoughts, using a wind powered turbine with a splash of gasoline on the pile of brown envelopes at your feet. Heathen. Master that Heretic.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

By jove someone has got it!!

If only japan had sunshine. Or wind. Or waves. Or geo-thermal activity, it would be great!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The work of thinning forests will not become unnecessary if the govt wants to reduce the threat of forest fires...and the last time the MFFA attempted large scale manipulation of forests led to massive erosion, the hideous cementing of hillsides nation-wide, and the introduction of cedar pollen alergies. And Japanese cedar is not useful for housing construction; most of the wood used in Japanese home construction is Canadian and Russian.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I always laugh when I hear the argument that growing and then harvesting trees is carbon neutral. Yes, as mentioned above, they do absorb CO2, but when you burn them, not only are you releasing the CO2, but also smoke and other gases. Also, these softwood trees they are thinking of planting are not the best for burning, not like a good strong oak or maple! They burn hot and fast, so you are not getting as much as you would from a different tree.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

And Japanese cedar is not useful for housing construction

Sugi is a fine material! You can use it for pretty much the entire house. Its just not as cheap as it should be due to logistics. For cladding, charred sugi is my absolute favourite.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Thanks for that informative post Alex. Japan's grid is a mess with poor resilience, even within regions with the same frequency. A couple of years ago, most of Hokkaido lost power for several days due to small localized quake. If that happened in winter, you would have people at risk of hypothermia even hundreds of km away.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Wrong.

Use city garbage and food waste to fuel biomass plants.

Actually, this is not suitable for biomass fired plants. Japan has a good number of waste to energy (WtE) plants which convert city waste to electricity. For biomass you need pellets which are generally made from waste wood / wood by-products, etc.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Northern countries use garbage to generate power, recycling almost everything, they have an underground pipe system that sucks trash directly to the power plants

Can you be more specific about - actually, about all of it - but in particular, which countries do you mean, and how many countries are actually doing that? Northern countries is vague in the extreme and means more or less whatever the reader wants it to mean. Too much left to the imagination. I like to know what people are actually talking about, and indeed whether it might be true.

Also, I wonder how different what you're describing is from Japan's progamme of "thermal recycling". Japan invented neither the term nor the process, it's originally from Germany I think.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Its just not as cheap as it should be due to logistics.

Well it's certainly not far away, inaccessible, or in short supply.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In a commonsense world, Japan would:

Phase out brown envelope driven policies.

Phase out cedar planting over most areas, to reduce hay fever (not energy related).

reduce energy consumption and increase recycling.

Focus more on small scale energy production and consumption to increase efficiency.

increase energy efficiency of buildings, specially with green areas, living walls/roofs/the latest solar energy techniques.

develop wind farms.

develop geothermal.

rationalise the grid system.

develop biodiverse forests, not move to another mistaken one type solution that turns out to be a problem over the following decades. Work with local watersheds and maximise local water harvesting.

plant to stabilise mountainsides, rewilding the steepest, most unstable ones.

Have burning biomass as a last resort, where saving/recycling/reusing can't be carried out.

Phase out coal fired plants and nuclear, and make rational plans for hydro electric plants as they age. A lot were environmental disasters, and should not be replaced when they reach the end of their lives.

Oh wouldn't it be loverly .....?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Not the solution to the problem, it may contribute to some reduction but will need to be carefully managed to avoid concomitant potential ecological disasters and adding to the air quality issues.

Solar, geothermal, onshore and offshore wind, tidal, hydroelectric and modern molten salt nuclear for base load are far more environmentally friendly and a far more beneficial solution for Japan

Alex Bunodiere well expounded.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@wipeout Norway, Finland little bit YouTube search should put you at ease.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Norway, Finland little bit YouTube search should put you at ease.

I'm sure it would but I don't chase down every single assertion that I don't take at face value (there are so many) just to save a commenter the hassle of providing some clarity for their own claims.

So are these the only two countries that do it, or are there others that you had in mind?

I suppose I could go to Youtube and try to match up information I can find about Norwegian and Finnish recycling against your sketchy description and then move on to, not necessarily correctly, guessing what you're talking about. Or I could just put the question directly again. It's more efficient, and it costs me nothing to ask, so I don't mind. Is this thermal recycling (ATR) you're talking about?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I guess they're talking about burning Wood pellets....

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/epa-declares-burning-wood-carbon-neutral-180968880/

0 ( +0 / -0 )

he lie of the land in Japan makes forestry very inefficient, a problem if the only value you are getting out of the extracted wood is heat for electricity production.

Logging seems to work pretty well on the steep slopes of the mountains in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and northern California. Not a lot of forests on the flat lands of western North America but plenty of logging in the mountains.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Northern countries use garbage to generate power, recycling almost everything, they have an underground pipe system that sucks trash directly to the power plants.

Trash piped underground directly to power plants? Where is this? Be specific.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Also they will hopefully not cut down all the trees at once from slopes causing mudslides like they so often stupidly do.

Oh wow. You should totally go be an advisor to the logging industry. They need someone with your awesome insight.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Nothing like being self sustained.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Actually, this is not suitable for biomass fired plants. Japan has a good number of waste to energy (WtE) plants which convert city waste to electricity.

Indeed. And let's face it, this is precisely the recycling method that Cricky was banging on about which supposedly Japan won't adopt because "It's not Japanese so useless in the land of the rising brown envelope."

In reality, Japan has gone big for the thermal recycling method (incineration repackaged as recycling - you bet they have), and descriptions of how it's done here are practically identical to those for European countries such as Norway: burn a lot of trash, generate a bit of heat and power. And while I think any recycling statistics (Japanese or otherwise) should be treated with caution bordering on suspicion, it's claimed, for example, that in 2015, Tokyo incinerators sold enough electricity to power the equivalent of 200,000 households.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2017/02/18/environment/wasteland-tokyo-grows-trash/

Japan does use a lot of plastics, way too much, but recycles a lot of it. As some will be quick to point out, much of that recycling is in the form of incineration, but that's no different from other countries doing it - Germany, Sweden, Norway, Finland etc. - and they are equally proud of their recycling statistics.

I guess the futuristic jobbie weecha system described by Cricky is pretty appealing as an idea, it certainly helped to make Norwegian recycling sound almost perfect. Evidently the truth is more complicated though. This article even claims that waste is trucked (what, no weecha?) right past an Oslo incinerator on its way to cheaper ones in Sweden.

https://www.dw.com/en/first-world-problem-norway-and-sweden-battle-over-who-gets-to-burn-waste/a-18772064

Yeah, I can sort of see why my friend upthread fizzled out when I asked for more details about Norway and Finland's amazing recycling system that Japan will never adopt. "Google it"/"Youtube it" is a dead giveaway: people with solid information rarely object to providing an actual source.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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