Austria Blazing the Wood Energy Pathway for Southland to Follow 20/01/2015

With 46 percent of Austria covered in forest it seemed a logical choice to sustainably exploit the environmentally friendly energy resource, an option Southland is currently exploring through Wood Energy South in partnership with EECA.

While New Zealand does not have such a large proportion of usable forest cover, there is a significant heat energy reserve awaiting future exploitation. Southland alone has approximately 300,000 tonnes of energy rich wood by-product, annually.   
CH Faul general manager John Faul has recently returned from a fact finding tour of Austria. This trip confirms his belief in the practicality of wood energy as a viable renewable source for industry, rest homes, hospitals and schools, not only in Southland, but nationwide.

Mr Faul said the wood energy industry is well developed in Austria with the country having made the decision over thirty years ago to utilise the substantial wood resource to produce an environmentally friendly sustainable alternative to imported fossil fuels.

Wood Energy South’s Cathy Jordan says the Austrian wood energy programme provides an inspirational lead in the clean burning energy story. She says one Austrian initiative involves the utilisation of a centralised wood chip burning unit to provide heat energy to multiple commercial enterprises, located within close proximity to each other.

Jordan says this method could well provide a cost effective answer for smaller southern enterprises and educational institutions wishing to meet clean air requirements. Meanwhile lowering the high boiler maintenance costs often associated with fossil fuel alternatives.

 “Wood Energy South is assisting numerous southern businesses, community facilities and schools as they explore the benefits of converting from fossil fuel to wood energy.”

An excellent example of a smaller operation successfully converting to bio-energy can be seen in 2014s Supreme EECA Award winning Christchurch based K&L Nurseries. The flower grower cut energy costs by $100,000 a year by installing an environmentally friendly Austrian boiler to heat their glasshouses avoiding 3,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year.

The project also brought numerous other environmental benefits. Ash from the boiler can now be used as fertiliser, unlike the coal ash which was toxic and needed careful disposal. The company’s eliminated the need to dispose of 100 tonnes of green waste a year – as this is now simply burned as fuel. 

Southern organisations that have or are in the process of converting to wood energy:
McCallums Drycleaners
Slinkskins Ltd
Environment Southland
Splash Palace
Waihopai School
Takitimu School