Biomass for energy

Biomass > Overview

Many parts of the British Isles have a climate suitable for growing trees quickly, on rotations of between 8 and 15 years. This is not well appreciated, despite many precedents for highly successful commercial and sustainable short rotation forestry around the world. If applied in Britain, short rotation forestry has the potential to substantially increase the amount of woodfuel the country could produce.

The techniques for short rotation forestry were developed elsewhere in the world, starting in the 1970s. These developments were prompted by increased demand for wood for industrial use, and by the realisation that many eucalyptus species respond very well to higher standards of establishment silviculture than has been the norm in forestry. The costs of this proved to be easily justified by the improved yields, as a result of the consistently good establishment achieved, and because of the shorter rotations that resulted. The techniques of short rotation forestry have been widely-adopted globally, on a huge scale, and have been extended to tree species other than eucalypts that are capable of fast growth.

There is a long history of growing eucalyptus species in the British Isles. The hardy species Eucalyptus gunnii has been successfully and widely grown in England and Scotland for over 150 years. Trials of eucalyptus species for forestry started in the 1930s in Ireland, and in the 1950s in the UK. Results were variable because the establishment conditions were often poor, and species were not always well-matched with the sites used. Nevertheless, some good stands resulted, and some of these still exist today.