Solutions for the exploitation of biomass energy in mountain regions

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Using tow-cables to extract and transport biomass to forest paths

Many forests are located on mountainous terrain with steep slopes, making their exploitation not economically viable, at least with traditional methods. This can lead to the abandonment of such hilly woodlands, giving rise to rodent infestation or forest fires, with resulting damage to the woods themselves and to surrounding areas.

Economic use can be made of this wood as a source of biomass energy, as is already the case in central Europe, especially in upland regions close to the Alps. A good example can be found in the Italian province of Trent, which is similar in size (6000 km2) and population (500,000 inhabitants) to the Spanish province of Castellon which was badly affected by forest fires this summer. Although Trent is in an area of very steep terrain – almost 60% of the land is forest on high, sheer slopes – more than 130 businesses are involved in forestry. Many of these firms use tow cables to get the trees and biomass out to forest pathways where chipping equipment finishes off the process. This material is then transported to biomass treatment centres or straight to District Heating plants.

In this Italian province, more than 20% of the wood is used to produce energy, particularly for air-conditioning. This represents some 120,000 tonnes sold at an average price of 60 euros per tonne and with a humidity content of around 50%. This use of biomass directly sustains hundreds of stable jobs in the province and provides a significant boost to the local economy, as well as cutting out the need to import 25 million litres of heating oil.

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