Energy trials to test timber potential in Scotland

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10 JUNE 2010NEWS RELEASE No: 13041

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Maximising Scotland’s capacity to generate renewable energy from woodfuel is the focus of a series of energy forestry trials being run by Forestry Commission Scotland.

The 20-year, country-wide trials will provide landowners and managers with the kind of information that will help them to establish successful woodfuel supply businesses.

With biomass boilers becoming more widely adopted as cheaper, greener sources of heat and power, there is a rising demand in Scotland for woodfuel.

Environment Minister, Roseanna Cunningham, said:

“Scotland has been gifted with the sorts of natural, renewable energy that – once properly tapped – will help to establish a strong, and sustainable low-carbon economy.

“We all know of the potential for hydro, wind and wave power – but woodfuel also has an important role to play in energy production.

“Current resources are not going to be able to meet the future demand so if the forestry sector – and indeed Scotland - is to make the most of this opportunity, we need to know what crops to grow where, and how best to grow them.”

The trials - taking place at five sites across Scotland and involving a range of native and non-native species - will help ensure that the most sustainable techniques are used on the right sites to deliver the best crop yield and the highest economic returns.  

A wide range of factors, will be comprehensively assessed throughout the trials. These include:

• Environment –the impact of short rotation cropping on climate, soils, hydrology and biodiversity.

• Silviculture - the effects of tree spacing, growth rate and yield; susceptibility to pests, diseases and climatic damage. Whole-tree samples will be assessed periodically for biomass allocation, growth, form and calorific value.

• Carbon balance - a comprehensive carbon life-cycle analysis for each trial site at the end of the rotation will be compared with other land use options e.g. agriculture or high forest.

• Economics - To be an effective and worthwhile crop, wood fuel must show an economic benefit. Indirect and direct costs will be collated throughout the rotation, to form the basis for a cost/benefit analysis at rotation end.

Some initial work has already been done on planting costs and further information will become available throughout the course of the trials.
Throughout the trials, each of the sites will be used as demonstration and educational resources.

For more information visit or the Commission's page at 

1) Forestry Commission Scotland serves as the Scottish Government’s forestry directorate and manages the 665,000 hectare national forest estate.  Climate change is the biggest threat facing the planet and Scottish forestry is playing its part in helping tackle climate change. With trees naturally locking up carbon, they have a significant role in reducing the affects of climate change. The use of wood as a fuel will also help reduce harmful greenhouse emissions and the Commission is working hard to promote woodfuel developments across the country. Forestry Commission Scotland is continuing to protect, manage and expand Scotland’s forests and woodlands in a way which helps in the fight against climate change.

2) The EF exemplar sites are being set up in support of the recommendations given in the Scottish Forestry Strategy (2006), the Scottish Government Wood fuel Taskforce Report (2008) and the Climate Change Action Plan (2008 -2010).

3) The trials will include operational commercial crop blocks as well as a range of smaller, self contained research blocks.

4) The five initial test sites will all be on arable or improved grazing, agricultural land (classes 3.2 – 4) that will be planted between 2009 and 2011. The trial species are: Eucalyptus (gunnii, nitens and glaucescens), Ash, Silver birch, Sycamore, Common alder, Japanese larch, Aspen (native), Nothofagus, Sitka spruce, Willow.

5) The planting of the two remaining sites, at Auchlochan and on Mull, in 2011, will complete this comprehensive series of trials, giving Scotland a unique resource, and leading the way on research into woody biomass production.

Media Enquiries
Paul Munro, Forestry Commission Scotland press office, 0131 314 6507