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[en] The environmental performance of willow biomass crop production systems in New York (NY) is analyzed using life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. The base-case, which represents current practices in NY, produces 55 units of biomass energy per unit of fossil energy consumed over the biomass crop's 23-year lifetime. Inorganic nitrogen fertilizer inputs have a strong influence on overall system performance, accounting for 37% of the non-renewable fossil energy input into the system. Net energy ratio varies from 58 to below 40 as a function of fertilizer application rate, but application rate also has implications on the system nutrient balance. Substituting inorganic N fertilizer with sewage sludge biosolids increases the net energy ratio of the willow biomass crop production system by more than 40%. While CO2 emitted in combusting dedicated biomass is balanced by CO2 adsorbed in the growing biomass, production processes contribute to the system's net global warming potential. Taking into account direct and indirect fuel use, N2O emissions from applied fertilizer and leaf litter, and carbon sequestration in below ground biomass and soil carbon, the net greenhouse gas emissions total 0.68 g CO2 eq. MJbiomassproduced-1. Site specific parameters such as soil carbon sequestration could easily offset these emissions resulting in a net reduction of greenhouse gases. Assuming reasonable biomass transportation distance and energy conversion efficiencies, this study implies that generating electricity from willow biomass crops could produce 11 units of electricity per unit of fossil energy consumed. Results form the LCA support the assertion that willow biomass crops are sustainable from an energy balance perspective and contribute additional environmental benefits
[en] The use of organic waste materials as nutrient sources for willow biomass production is an attractive means to decrease fertilization costs, increase biomass production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the system. In this study, changes in soil nutrients and biomass production of two willow varieties (Salix miyabeana–SX64 and Salix purpurea–9882-34) in organic and synthetic fertilized systems were compared at three locations in Northeastern U.S.A: Middlebury VT (MID), Delhi NY (DEL) and Fredonia NY (FRE). A 150 and 200 kg available N ha−1 of urea as commercial fertilizer (CF), biosolid compost (BC) and digested dairy manure (DM) and a control (CT0) treatments were applied in June 2008 to the willow which was re-sprouting after coppice. There was no significant difference (p > 0.05) in biomass production among the fertilization treatments at any of the three sites and for either of the varieties. First rotation biomass production of 9882-34 ranged from 9.0 to 11.6 Mg ha−1 yr−1 at DEL, 3.4–8.8 Mg ha−1 yr−1 at MID and 3.5–7.7 Mg ha−1 yr−1 at FRE. For SX64, biomass production ranged from 13.2 to 19.0 Mg ha−1 yr−1 at DEL, 9.0–15.0 Mg ha−1 yr−1 at Mid and 5.5–9.3 Mg ha−1 yr−1 at FRE. SX64 deployed small numbers of large stems and produced more biomass than 9882-34 which deployed large numbers of small stems. Application of BC significantly increased soil N and P levels at MID in both 2008 and 2009 (p < 0.05). At DEL, BC and DM treatments increased soil N, Ca, Mg and OM levels in both 2008 and 2009 (p < 0.05). The fertilization treatments had no significant effect on any soil nutrients at FRE. This study indicates that willow biomass can be produced without fertilizer additions in the first rotation across this range of sites due to the nutrient status of these sites and high internal nutrient cycling in these systems. -- Highlights: •Neither organic nor synthetic fertilization significantly improved biomass production in any of the three sites. •Optimal willow biomass can be produced without fertilizer additions in the first rotation across this range of sites. •Organic amendment however improved soil nutrients levels significantly at the Delhi and Middlebury study sites. •The economic and environmental costs of commercial fertilizers in the production of willow biomass can be eliminated
[en] Highlights: • Pyrolysis of willow biomass was conducted after hot water extraction (HWE). • HWE biomass had lower mass fractions of minerals and hemicellulose. • Pyrolysis of HWE samples produced less acetic acid and more levoglucosan. • The increase in levoglucosan yield HWE samples was attributed to demineralization. • HWE has a greater effect on bio-oil composition than it does on bio-oil yield. - Abstract: In this study, we tested the effect of hot water extraction (HWE) as a biomass pretreatment on the pyrolysis of three cultivars of shrub willow via both conventional heating (using a micropyrolyzer, Py-GC/MS) and microwave-assisted heating (using a laboratory scale microwave reactor and activated charcoal as an added microwave absorber). The py-GC/MS experiments revealed that there was little difference in pyrolysis behavior among the cultivars for raw or HWE pretreated samples. Using either heating method, pyrolysis of the HWE pretreated samples produced less acetic acid and CO2 than did the untreated biomass; conversely there was an increase in levoglucosan yield with HWE pretreatment. The difference in levoglucosan yield was particularly large (4 fold increase) for the py-GC/MS experiments and was attributable in large part to the demineralization of the HWE samples. The decreased mineral content appeared to have a larger effect on conventional heating than in the microwave assisted heating. The pyrolysis of HWE pretreated biomass also led to more rapid temperature increases during microwave-assisted pyrolysis performed at 1000 W. Therefore the microwave-assisted pyrolysis of HWE was studied at two different microwave power settings to compare the effect of HWE on both processes at similar temperatures. At similar temperature conditions the yield of bio-oil, bio-char and non-condensable gases from microwave-assisted pyrolysis were similar between the pretreated and raw willow but the bio-oil contained higher concentrations of aromatic hydrocarbons and less acetic acid and levoglucosan. Overall, the HWE pretreatment had a greater effect on bio-oil composition than bio-oil yield.
[en] Availability of and access to useful energy is a crucial factor for maintaining and improving human well-being. Looming scarcities and increasing awareness of environmental, economic, and social impacts of conventional sources of non-renewable energy have focused attention on renewable energy sources, including biomass. The complex interactions of social, economic, and ecological factors among the bioenergy system components of feedstock supply, conversion technology, and energy allocation have been a major obstacle to the broader development of bioenergy systems. For widespread implementation of bioenergy to occur there is a need for an integrated approach to model the social, economic, and ecological interactions associated with bioenergy. Such models can serve as a planning and evaluation tool to help decide when, where, and how bioenergy systems can contribute to development. One approach to integrated modeling is by assessing the sustainability of a bioenergy system. The evolving nature of sustainability can be described by an adaptive systems approach using general systems principles. Discussing these principles reveals that participation of stakeholders in all components of a bioenergy system is a crucial factor for sustainability. Multi-criteria analysis (MCA) is an effective tool to implement this approach. This approach would enable decision-makers to evaluate bioenergy systems for sustainability in a participatory, transparent, timely, and informed manner
[en] Sustainable bioenergy systems are, by definition, embedded in social, economic, and environmental contexts and depend on support of many stakeholders with different perspectives. The resulting complexity constitutes a major barrier to the implementation of bioenergy projects. The goal of this paper is to evaluate the potential of Multi Criteria Analysis (MCA) to facilitate the design and implementation of sustainable bioenergy projects. Four MCA tools (Super Decisions, DecideIT, Decision Lab, NAIADE) are reviewed for their suitability to assess sustainability of bioenergy systems with a special focus on multi-stakeholder inclusion. The MCA tools are applied using data from a multi-stakeholder bioenergy case study in Uganda. Although contributing to only a part of a comprehensive decision process, MCA can assist in overcoming implementation barriers by (i) structuring the problem, (ii) assisting in the identification of the least robust and/or most uncertain components in bioenergy systems and (iii) integrating stakeholders into the decision process. Applying the four MCA tools to a Ugandan case study resulted in a large variability in outcomes. However, social criteria were consistently identified by all tools as being decisive in making a bioelectricity project viable
[en] Highlights: • Develop a cost-effective model using secondary data examining delivering heat through Biomass District Heating (BDH). • Eight of ten rural villages studied could cost-effectively deliver heat through BDH below the 2013 price of heating oil. • 80% of the annual cost of BDH was attributable to capital expenses. • Erratic fuel oil prices substantially impact future feasibility. • Village level feasibility is highly-influenced by the presence of large heat demanders. - Abstract: The economic feasibility of Biomass District Heating (BDH) networks in rural villages is largely unknown. A cost-effective evaluation tool is developed to examine the feasibility of BDH in rural communities using secondary data sources. The approach is unique in that it accounts for all the major capital expenses: energy center, distribution network, and energy transfer stations, as well as biomass procurement. BDH would deliver heat below #2 fuel oil in eight of the ten rural study villages examined, saving nearly $500,000 per year in heating expenses while demanding less than 5% of the forest residues sustainably available regionally. Capital costs comprised over 80% of total costs, illuminating the importance of reaching a sufficient heat density. Reducing capital costs by 1% lowers total cost by $93,000 per year. Extending capital payment period length five years or lowering interest rates has the next highest influence decreasing delivered heat price 0.49% and 0.35% for each 1% change, respectively. This highlights that specific building heat is a strong determinant of feasibility given the relative influence of high-demanding users on the overall village heat-density. Finally, we use a stochastic analysis projecting future #2 fuel oil prices, incorporating historical variability, to determine the probability of future BDH feasibility. Although future oil prices drop below the BDH feasibility threshold, the villages retain a 22–53% probability of feasibility after 20 years as a result of high #2 fuel oil price variability.
[en] Quantifying interannual change in water status of woody plants using stable carbon isotopes provides insight on long-term plant ecophysiology and potential success in variable environments, including under-utilized agricultural land for biomass production and highly disturbed sites for phytoremediation applications. We analyzed δ13C values in annual ring-wood of four shrub willow varieties used for biomass production and phytoremediation at three sites in central New York State (U.S.A). We tested a cost-effective sampling method for estimating whole-shrub water status by comparing δ13C values of the plant’s largest stem against a composite sample of all stems. The largest stem showed 0.3‰13C enrichment (range −0.7–1.1‰) compared to the whole-plant, making it a more sensitive indicator of water status than the composite sample. Growing season precipitation exerted a strong negative influence on wood tissue chemistry, with an average 0.26‰13C depletion per 100 mm increase in precipitation. An average annual 0.28‰13C enrichment was also observed with increased plant age; this pattern was consistent among all four willow varieties and across sites. Finally, increased 13C enrichment in wood tissue was positively associated with plant size at the individual plant level, and associated negatively and more variably survival at the plot scale. These results have important implications for the design and management of biomass production and phytoremediation systems. Increased sensitivity of older plants suggests that longer rotations may experience growth limitations and/or lower survival in low-precipitation years, resulting in reduced yields of biomass crops and loss of effectiveness in phytoremediation applications. -- Highlights: ► A 0.26‰13C depletion in wood tissue occurred per 100 mm increase in precipitation. ► There was an average 13C enrichment with plant age and size for all varieties. ► Greater 13C enrichment often lead to lower survival rates in plants. ► Shorter growth rotations maximize biomass yield and phytoremediation applications.
[en] Land application of organic wastes to short rotation woody crops (SRWC) can reduce the environmental impacts associated with waste disposal and enhance the productivity of biomass production systems. Understanding the potential impacts of organic amendments however, requires the examination of changes in soil characteristics and plant productivity. This study was conducted to evaluate the effect of paper sludge and dairy manure on biomass production of shrub willow (Salix dasyclados SV1) and to determine the impacts of these amendments on soil chemical properties. Treatments included urea, dairy manure and paper sludge separately and in combination, and a control. These materials were applied in the summer of 2005 to two fields of SV1 at different stages of growth: An old field with one year old shoots on a 10 year old root system and a young field which was beginning regrowth after being coppiced at the end of its first growing season. Foliar nutrient concentrations and soil chemical properties were analyzed at the end of the second growing season after treatment application to determine plant response to the fertilization regimes and to determine the effects of fertilization on soil characteristics. Fertilization did not increase biomass production in either field. However, application of the N-poor paper sludge did not reduce yield either. In general, fertilization did not influence soil or foliar chemistry, although there were some exceptions. The lack of response observed in this study is probably related to the nutrient status of the site or losses of applied nutrients. -- Highlights: → The fertilization treatments did not have any significant effect biomass production. → Application of paper sludge did not reduce willow biomass yield in both fields. → Foliar N concentration of willow crops in this study is in the range considered for optimal growth. → The limited response of foliar nutrients to fertilization indicates that the site was not limited by nutrient availability. → Organic amendments did not have any significant effect on total soil N.