Bio mass-fired power plant: A matter which should be looked into PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 30 September 2011 15:13

By BRIGIDO A. DELA CRUZ

Global warming is the talk of the town especially when catastrophies happen. It is often easier said than understood, hence receives less attention and action for its mitigation by those in government sector specifically politicians.

The massive consumption and mismanagement of the world’s natural resources and rapid industrialization has caused destruction of the environment and of the earth’s protective shield, the ozone layer, resulting to a phenomenon called “global warming” that, if not mitigated, may cause the extinction of humanity — Global warming is caused by the high concentration greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere that results in atmospheric interference of the climate system which causes changes in rainfall and evaporation patterns: droughts, desertification, storms/typhoons and flooding and rising of sea water levels.

Climate change has been a major issue during the earth summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. Heads of states Of 179 countries including the Philippines who attended the summit unanimously agreed to institute mitigation measures by changing course from present consumption patterns to less ecologically destructive ways to protect the atmosphere, one strategy of which is by making energy transition, urging all nations to have constraints and efficiency in energy production and consumption by the development of new and renewable resources — find power plants and promotion of mass transport. Reference to new and renewable energy sources were repeated made by listing nine of them as follows 1) solar, 2) thermal, 3) solar photo voltage, 4) hydro, 5) biomass, 6) geothermal, 7) ocean, 8) animal, 9) human power.

These are the resources referred to in the development and utilization of new and renewable sources of energy with the energy crisis in Zamboanga City, alternative fuel sources must be found.

Biomass, specifically in the form of wood, has the potential to be excellent replacement for fossil fuels including coal. Biomass fuel includes trees, ethanol from farm crops, alcohol and landfill gas.

Biomass products can be grown and created hence renewable-which makes the supply sustainable unlike coal which takes millions of years to form. Additionally, burning wood is much better for the environment. Replacing fossil fuel and coal with wood could lower air and water pollution.

In adherence to the call of the United Nations Commission in Environment and Development (UNCED) which declared the rights and responsibility of each country towards environmental management, a biomass-fired power plant for Zamboanga City should be looked into/considered. Where established, the biomass-fired power plant will generate ecological and economic benefits.

Though any tree could be utilized as firewood, the primary tree which has the potential to sustainably supply the requirements of a biomass-fired power plant is the giant Ipil-Ipil (Leucaena leucocepha (a) which was introduced to the country thirty years ago and is now found growing every where specially in the rural areas. Once a biomass-fired power plant is established, plantations of this specie could be established primarily in the open and denuded forest lands specifically on areas covered with Certificate of Stewardship Certificate (CSC) and Community-Based Forest Management Agreements (CBFMA) issued by the DENR. There are thousands of hectares of forest lands under these categories/classifications. What is needed is a close coordination between the Department of Energy and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The DENR, it is perceived, will welcome the idea because it is in consonance with their program thrusts which is the National Greening Program to help abate global warming.

Unlike coal which takes millions of years to form, biomass fuel could be created. When used to fire power plants, it could provide sustainable energy well into the future. Additionally burning wood is much better for the environment for the wood will just emit the carbon dioxide which it has been observed during its life-span unlike coal which is non-renewable emits not only carbon dioxide but carbon monoxide which contain mercury and land that endangers human health. Using wood would lower air and water pollution.

Still further, the areas where coal is extracted all virtually wastelands and it takes so many years before the areas are stabilized. In contract, the giant Ipil-lpil will be planted and ultimately harvested, soil will become more rich and suited for agriculture because the tree is a leguminous specie.

Once forest plantations are established, such plantations will contribute largely tangible benefits to abate/mitigate global warming because of the following wholesome forest influences on the physiological and psychological functions of human beings. To be understood better, elaboration as to what forest plantations can do to man’s health and well-being is in order. Scientific findings indicate that

a. Forest purefy the air. To produce one (1) ton of wood, the forests absorb 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide (CO;) and releases one (1) ton of oxygen. One hectare of healthy forest plantation absorbs /consumes two (2) tons of carbon dioxide (C02) per year.

b. More springs are found in forested areas than in open lands.

c. Streams and rivers from undisturbed forest plantations are generally clear and sediment-free.

d. The humus on the forest floor in plantations so porous that it can absorb and hold water double its weights; The surface of the forest floor will retain water from
1 to 5 times its dry weight.

e. The mechanical obstruction offered by humus on the forest floor and the external root networks tend to retard the flow of the runoff and the water thus held could be significant in the timing and lowering of flood waters.

f. One (1) hectare of woodland contains twenty (20) tons of earthworms. The holes bored by the earthworms in the ground act as reservoirs which stores much water during the occurrence of rain and enhances fast percolation of water into the aquifers which is gradually released through the springs during dry season. The excreta of the earthworms are washed to the lowlands during heavy rains and serve as fertilizers to farm crops.

g. During a rainfall, the crowns of trees may intercept as much as 10-20 per cut of the precipitation-that part of the rainwater that hots the surface of leaves and branches is evaporated back to the atmosphere.

h. The relative humidity of the air  within the forest is 8-10 percent higher than outside the forest.

i  The forest canopy intercepts 50-70 percent of the light supposed to reach the ground.

j. During the hottest day of the year, the temperature in the forest could be 5% lower than outside.

These are some of the beneficial influences of forest plantations to man. We can say that forest plantation considerations contribute to the maintenance of rural stability and sustained productivity of the forest ecosystem — to supply the wood requirements of a biomass-fired power plant.

The above forest influences when being put to place will undoubtedly enhance biological diversity, ecological stability and sustainable development and will ensure sustainable supply of trees for the biomass-fired power plant while at the same time help mitigate / abate global warming.

Ultimately, aside from being labor intensive, the production of wood through forest plantations will have a domino effect on the economy as follows;
a. Sustainable supply of wood to the biomass-fired power plant because of renewable source, (the Ipil-lpil plantation). Ipil-lpil, aside from being easy to grow, could even be produced not by replanting but by coppice method.

b. Employment contribute in solving the unemployment problem?

c. Income of the farmers through the sale of their trees.

d. Income from wages/salaries of employees/laborers.

e. Generation of business to supply the needs of the farmers as well as the laborers.

f.  Generation of income for the government in the form of income taxes of farmers, laborers and businessmen

g. Predicted lower rates of electricity due to the lower cost of fuel (biomass).

Accordingly, some electric companies in America, Europe, specifically Sweden, Denmark, Germany, United Kingdom and even Berlin have already converted coal and fossil fuel fired power plants to biomass-fired plants in response to the call of UNCED to abate global warming/climate change. If such more developed countries have adhered to the call, we should also follow suit for the sake of saving mother earth, the only one we have and must cherish.