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The Different Uses of Wood Energy

Wood is undoubtedly the first energy source harnessed by humans — the use of fire dates back to prehistoric times. This energy source is still widely utilized throughout the world, for domestic purposes and industrial applications.

Les différents usages du bois énergie
Wood is the main source of renewable energy in France. © THINKSTOCK

Renewable and abundant, this resource falls under the heading of traditional biomassIn the energy sector, biomass is defined as all organic matter of plant or animal origin... and is widely used throughout the world. In developing countries, 2.5 billion people rely solely on burning wood and animal dung for heating, lighting and cooking.

Wood Energy, the Main Renewable Energy Worldwide

Wood energy is often overlooked in world energy mixThe range of energy sources of a region. statistics, because its use is mostly non-commercial. However, it is estimated that at the start of the 21st century, traditional biomass provides about 1 billion ton of oil equivalent (toe)Unit of energy measurement corresponding to the energy produced by the combustion of a ton of oil... (toe) per year, which is about 10% of the world’s primary energyAll energy sources that have not undergone any conversion process and remain in their natural state.. consumption. But on a local level, particularly in much of Africa, it accounts for over 90% of domestic consumption.

In France, roughly 7 million households (out of 30 million) use wood, mainly logs, as a main or additional source of heating. Its use is on the rise, up from just 6 million households in 2000, but the figure fluctuates slightly from year to year depending on temperatures in winter. Wood is therefore the main renewable energyEnergy sources that are naturally replenished so quickly that they can be considered inexhaustible on a human time scale... in France.(1) 

Domestic Uses of Wood

Wood energy can be used in various forms depending on what it is needed for :  

Whatever form the wood is in, it is important to keep it away from damp areas and ensure that the stove is working correctly.(2) 

7 million the number of French households that use wood for heating 

Industrial Applications

In the industrial sector, wood energy has many applications, including firing ceramics, tiles or bricks, heating or drying products, and producing hot water or steam, for example for dry cleaning. This fuel is also sometimes used to generate powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... . Water is heated in a large wood-fired boiler and the resulting steam drives a turbine that generates an electric current. Worldwide, wood is the main biomass resource used to produce electricityForm of energy resulting from the movement of charged particles (electrons) through a conductor...

Which Wood to Use as Fuel

In developing countries, 2.5 billion people rely solely on wood for heating, lighting and cooking.

Wood used as a source of thermal energy (see Close-Up: "Wood-Fired Heating Practical Information") has several origins:

  • Wood and residue from forestry operations, such as branches, crowns and stumps.
  • Farm waste.
  • Waste from the wood industry, such as bark, sawdust, shavings and other waste from sawmills, paper mills, and pallet, furniture and timber product factories.
  • Untreated used or scrap wood packaging, such as crates, cases and pallets. Particleboard, which has been treated and often bears traces of glue, paint or varnish, is not used as it can release corrosive and toxic emissions when burned.



(1) ADEME study (in French)
(2) Wood-fired heating: a how-to guide (ADEME guide, in French)