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Willow energy crops

Poplar energy crops
Photos courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy

Forests for Fuel

Perennial woody crops (also referred to as short-rotation woody crops) can be economically feasible as a primary biomass resource. Timber is one of Texas’ most valuable agricultural commodities, representing 35 percent of East Texas’ agricultural income. Harvested forest biomass such as sawdust, bark and wood chips from saw mills and pulp mills are being used in East Texas to generate steam and electricity.

Federal funds have been allocated for research on energy crops of hybrid willow trees and hybrid poplar trees (cottonwoods), which are ideal candidates for cellulosic ethanol processing. The poplar’s extraordinarily rapid growth, and its relatively compact genome size of 480 million nucleotide units (40 times smaller than the genome of pine), are among the many features that led researchers to target poplar as a model crop for biomass energy production.

Texas Possibilities

Texas Governor Rick Perry announced the Texas Bioenergy Strategy, and awarded a $5 million Texas Emerging Technology Fund grant to Texas A&M University for research and biofuel advancements. In a four year project, Texas A&M University and the Chevron Corroboration are partnering on research efforts to find ways to speed up harvesting of cellulose crops and turning them into biofuels. The Governor said that Texas will focus on creating biofuels through cellulosic feedstock such as switchgrass, wood chips and corn stems – rather than from corn crops, which are a staple for the Texas cattle industry.

Additional Links

  • Phyllis is a database, containing information on the composition of biomass and waste. Phyllis enables you to make analysis data of individual biomass or waste materials available and offers you the possibility to obtain the average composition of any combination of groups and/or subgroups. You can get answers on questions like:“What is the average sulphur content of wood?” or “What is the ash content of willow?”
  • Growing Energy is a Natural Resources Defense Council study that explores how biofuels can help end America’s dependence on foreign oil.
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