Assessment of forest biomass for use as energy. GIS-based analysis of geographical availability and locations of wood-fired power plants in Portugal
This study looks at the use of wood-fire power plants in Portugal. Portugal established a policy to increase the amount of renewable energy that the country used to 45% of the total supply by 2010. The researchers used GIS to determine if the country had enough forest biomass to achieve their goals. While Portugal already has a large hydroelectric energy production, they wanted to increase the amount of renewable energy. As odd as it sounds, using wood-fired power plants is classified under renewable energy. Portugal hopefully will continue to use wood biomass in a sustainable fashion.
The researches based their study on three steps; they assessed Portugal’s forest biomass resource potential; they assessed the spatial distribution of the biomass; and they evaluated the suitability of the current and proposed wood-fire power plants.
The GIS was utilized in calculating the usable forest biomass. Data was collected on the forest coverage of Portugal (approximately 3.4 million hectares) and these forests were further reduced to what would be usable by the power plants. The researchers then put the locations of the power plants and any other places that actively used wood in order to determine if the power plant would be able to function without interrupting current wood biomass usages. Using all the data on forests and power plant locations, an analysis was performed to determine the optimal amount of energy each plant could produce working in the best conditions.
The study concluded that even at theoretical, optimal levels, the power plants could not provide enough energy for the areas they were being placed in unless the power plants were equipped with cogeneration or CHP (which would improve efficiency) or area used a fossil fuel to supplement energy production. Since all of these power plants will have CHP, the country should be capable of achieving their goal of 45% renewable energy. More studies were planned to follow this one to gather more information by the same authors.
Viana, H., Cohen, W. B., Lopes, D., Aranha, J. (2010). Assessment of forest biomass for use as energy. GIS-based analysis of geographical availability and locations of wood-fired power plants in Portugal. Applied Energy. 87, 2551-2560. From http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306261910000383