Showing posts from January, 2011

Great Designs in Wood (1) - The Penn State Forest Resources Building

I'll make it a habit to post great designs in wood as I come across them. The first is a series of case studies produced and shared by the Hardwood Council. Check out these beautiful designs featuring maple, ash, walnut, red and white oak, including the cherry woodwork and maple glulam beams here at our Penn State School of Forest Resources.

Tip AmountOption 1 $2.00 USDOption 2 $4.00 USDOption 3 $10.00 USD

Species Matters!

Well, I'm in bad shape on firewood. Just one and a half cords left, out of my original six, and we're not even to Groundhog Day! Past two years I only used one cord a month, so I figured six cords this year would get it.

Now before you go and blame Global Warming for this unusually cold winter we're having, there may be another reason why I'm going through wood faster this year.

Natural and Unnatural Constraints on the Forest Resource

If you read my opening post on this topic, you'll recall that Pennsylvania has more wood in its forest now than at any time in the last 100 or more years, despite its "heavy use". And that the US Forest Service projects that the forest volume could increase by as much as 50% more by the year 2050.

Now if you're really old, say a hundred and twenty, you can remember when much of Pennsylvania was cut over and looked like this scene of Oil City, PA in 1910.

As the cities of the country grew and settlements expanded, most of the wood that was growing out there was needed to meet the apparently insatiable appetite for wood that these growing communities required. But the expansion itself, caused in no small part by the development of raw material markets such as oil, contained the seeds of a decreasing demand for wood. The scarcity of wood itself and the resulting higher prices for it caused opportunistic Americans to seek cheaper alternatives, and as these industries …

Is Wood Really Competitive as an Energy Source?

The answer to that question depends, ironically, in what sense the reader understands the word "competitive."

If you tend to think of these things in technical, engineering terms, and your context is power generation, then you would probably see wood as a less dense source of energy than coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power, and wood-based power generation to be less efficient than power generation from those other fuels. This would lead you to conclude that wood is not, from an engineering standpoint, at least, competitive with those other fuel sources. And in the case of power production, at least, you would be correct.

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

As mentioned in the last post, we have more wood in our forests today, except with local exceptions, than any time in the last one hundred or more years? How could this be, when Smokey the Bear and groups like Save America's Forests and Friends of the Earth have been warning us for decades that our forestland is dangerously close to extinction?

Energy From Wood

One of the issues that most of my professional time is spent on is the societal energy potential of wood. I've written technical notes on the wood energy potential within Pennsylvania, wood pellets, and co-firing coal power plants with wood. However, one issue I don't address in these technical notes is whether using wood for energy is a "good thing."