Guest speaker at the recent Gippsland Environment Group AGM was Dr Chris Bales from Sweden. Chris leads a research programme on solar thermal systems and thermal storage, including solar cooling, at the Solar Energy Research Centre SERC, a working group within the energy and environmental technology subject at Dalarna University College. He was a member of the board for the Solar Energy Association of Sweden for a number of years. Chris teaches about one third the time and the rest is devoted to research into solar thermal areas including heat pumps.
The meeting was well attended and Chris’s presentation was informal answering a number of questions from the audience as he went. He described the situation in Sweden which was almost the opposite of Australia with all the energy going into heating and no cooling whatsoever. Sweden has embarked on a program of refurbishing older housing with an emphasis on passive solar heating. This involves the use of triple glazing and installing massive amounts of insulation – using up to half a metre thick of wood fibre bats in roofs.
As a timber country with about 70% of their land area in forest much of Sweden’s energy is produced by co-generators. These use wood pellet fired generators to produce both heat and electricity. Heated water, at near boiling point temperatures, is sent through buried pipe through the towns where it is used to heat residences via heat exchanges. These wood pellets are partly produced from wood waste and partially from locally sourced timber. If the latter is from plantations then this is clearly renewable and sustainable energy. Chris also detailed how 99% of the Sweden’s waste was recycled. Otherwise intractable waste was incinerated and powered co-generators in some towns.
It was pointed out that the situation is completely different in Australia with the need to protect and preserve native forests as carbon sinks. Only the use of plantation timber waste under strict conditions should be considered climate friendly and sustainable. The meeting went on to discuss the wilful damage being currently carried out by several government departments clearing large tracts of roadside trees under the feeble guise of ‘public safety’. This appears to be done in a haphazard manner with no public accounting whatsoever. Moreover the roadsides so damaged appear to be remote from settled areas and can in no way be considered relevant to protection from fires. Whereas to even pretend to be carbon neutral at least 100 trees should be planted for everyone that is felled. The meeting concluded with the President, John Hermans thanking Chris for his talk which was heartily confirmed by those present.