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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 11

I The Present Energy Economy

II Australian Energy Consumption

III Research And Development

IV Coal

V Oil And Natural Gas

VI Solar Energy

VII Nuclear Energy

VIII Bagasse Firewood And Other Biomass
i Bagasse
ii Firewood
iii Other biomass

IX Electric Power Generation And Distribution electric Power Generation And Distribution

X Manufactured Gas

XI Industrial Process Heat



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Firewood, as mentioned earlier in this Chapter, was the most important source of fuel for the early settlers and remained so until coal displaced it, at least for industrial purposes. Up to Second World War wood burnt in open fireplaces was the main method of heating houses. Slow combustion stoves using coke were used for a while in the post-war years but oil, gas and electric heating largely displaced wood and coke in the cities during the 1960s and 1970s.

Wood was still being used in country areas, but since 1976 there has been a big increase in the number of Australian households using firewood and it is estimated that in 1983 about 2 million people were using solid fuel, 90 per cent of which is wood, as their main source of heating. In addition there were those who had a fireplace or solid fuel heater which was not used as the main source of heating.

There are no reliable figures available for the number of solid fuel heaters manufactured annually in Australia, but there is little doubt that most of those sold are imported, originally from Taiwan but recently from New Zealand. In 1981-82 local annual production was estimated to be about 8000 heaters, compared to imports totalling 60,565. It appears that Australian manufacturers had not been able to meet the increasing demand nor, with a few exceptions, had they been very innovative either as regards function or style.

There are signs that this situation is changing. Since 1982 several local manufacturers have set up R&D departments and expanded production. They have been supported by organisations such as the Centre for Environmental Studies at the University of Tasmania and AMDEL in Adelaide, both of which have facilities for testing and measuring the performance of solid fuel heaters. In May 1987 the Australian Consumers' Association published a report of the tests they had commissioned AMDEL to undertake on five Australian made, and six imported wood burning heaters. The Australian heaters, which were Coonara, Maxiheat, Red Embers, Heatcharm and Burning Log, in general compared very favourably with the imports.

The annual consumption of wood was 83 PJ in 1984-85, made up of 68 PJ for residences and 15 PJ for industries. Firewood is readily available in most parts of Australia, coming almost invariably from one of the eucalypt species, which has a calorific value of 16 to 17 MJ/kg for air dried wood. The source of supply at present is mostly from the clearing of private land, but large quantities are available from State and private commercial forests, from areas which have been logged for sawn timber and woodchips. The potential firewood production from this source is estimated to be at least equal to the quantity of sawlog and pulplog harvested. On that basis the potential supply would be 3 times the 1984-85 demand of 5 million tonnes of air dried wood.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Australian Consumers' Association; Australian Mineral Development Laboratories; University of Tasmania. Centre for Environmental Studies

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 822 - 823, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher