Wood- & all Industries



Solid biomass in Germany

The use of solid biomass for generating energy has a long tradition in Germany. Solid biomass includes agricultural and forestry produce such as forest timber, fast growing tree species and specially cultivated energy crops or cereal straw. Other products that can be used for power generation include cutting waste from the agriculture, forestry and timber industries, treated and untreated waste wood and sawdust, as well as scrap and waste products from agricultural and foodstuff production.
In Germany, wood is the most commonly used form of solid, biogenous fuel. As a fuel it is CO2-neutral, as wood, when combusted, only releases the amount of CO2 it absorbed during growth. Wood is mainly used for decentralised heat generation as well as for the simultaneous generation of heat and electricity in larger plants. German companies are world leaders in the provision of highly efficient technology in this area.



Applications and technologies

Wood in the form of split logs, wood chips and pellets is used to generate heat. Ovens and boilers with electronically regulated combustion systems, which are sometimes fed via automatic screw conveyors, have been developed for burning timber pellets in single-family homes. The combustion process in these new systems is much more efficient and produces far less pollution than conventional wood heating systems such as tiled stoves and fireplaces. These modern heating systems are now offered in various output sizes, whereby for single-family homes they are typically less than 15 kW.

Heating systems used to supply several homes or houses are generally fed with wood chips from machine-chipped wood. The heat is then distributed via a local heating network.

Wood is also used directly in larger, combined heat and power (CHP) plants to generate electricity and heat simultaneously. The simultaneous generation of electricity and heat increases the overall efficiency of the energy conversion and thus enables the fuel to be more efficiently utilized than with plants that only generate electricity.



Market development

Increase in biomass-fired heat and power plants in Germany (exclusively plants in regular operation supported by the EEG).
Source: EEG Monitoring Report from the German Ministry of the Environment
Germany has seen a rapid growth in the number of wood pellet-fired heating systems in recent years, with growth rates reaching 100 percent. By the end of 2006, there were around 70,000 pellet boilers and ovens installed in Germany. More than one million tons of wood pellets are due for production at more than 30 sites in 2007. The market growth in recent years has encouraged German manufacturers to invest in expanding their production capacities and in further developing the technology. Modern wood pellet boilers clean themselves automatically and only need to be serviced once a year. Only the ashes have to be disposed of once or twice a year.

Increase in the total installed electrical output of biomass-fired heat and power plants in Germany (exclusively plants in regular operation supported by the EEG).
Source: EEG Monitoring Report from the German Ministry of the Environment
In the field of larger heat generation systems, more than one thousand biomass heating plants now supply heat to residential areas and numerous public properties connected via local heating networks. In addition, larger wood-fired boiler systems are used by timber processing companies for supplying heat to commercial and industrial properties.

Wood is also the most important means of converting solid biomass into electricity in Germany. By the end of 2006, around 160 plants with an electrical output of 960 MW were in operation. Scrap lumber, waste wood from industry and sawmill by-products were mostly used as raw materials. The attractive funding conditions offered under the Renewable Energy Sources Act has led to increased interest, both from industry and investors, in generating electricity from wood.

Regulatory framework

In the heating sector, the German Market Incentive Programme promotes systems for burning solid biomass, in particular highly efficient, small-scale heating plants that burn pellets, split logs and wood chips. Despite the high initial investment costs, this creates an incentive to switch heat supplies to environmentally friendly and low-cost biofuels. The German federal government is planning to amend the annual funding of renewable energy sources used for generating heat. The new legislation will increase funding and fix it at a permanent level.

In the German electricity sector, the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) promotes the use of solid biomass to generate electricity. The central element is a minimum price, guaranteed for more than 20 years, for biomass-generated electricity fed into the public mains grid. The grid operators are required to give priority to accepting this kind of electricity and to purchase it in accordance with legal provisions. Prices depend on the technology, on the system size and, in the case of bioenergy, on the raw materials used. Additional bonus payments are granted for combined heat and power generation and for the use of innovative energy technologies.


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