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A Biennially Renewable Fuel Resource: Woodchips
Recent genetic improvements with some tree species has given us hybrids that have disease resistance, rapid growth, and the ability to regenerate from the stump after harvest. Grown intensively these hybrids are capable of producing and storing a usable 250 mBTU per acre per year on a biennial harvest of the total tree. Employing the best of today's silvicultural techniques and boiler equipment each tree can produce a little more than one boiler horsepower per year. Utilizing non-prime lands for the production of 'hybrid poplars' one acre can generate the wood fuel equivalent of 40 barrels of oil ($8/bbl) or 2500 therms of natural gas ($0.13/therm) per year and can be harvested every other year. Beyond the economic and environmental benefits there are additional merits to be realized by growing your own woodfuel. Like money in the bank, fuel may be withdrawn from the forest bank 'as needed' while the reserves accrue growth. The nutrient rich ash 'remains' can be utilized to sustain the yield of an energy plantation. Unlike other alternative sources of energy that are capital intensive, 'growing your own woodfuel' is labor intensive. You can also receive significant forestry tax incentives; and, above all, you can avoid any fuel 'cartel'.
Krantz, B. (1983). A Biennially Renewable Fuel Resource: Woodchips. Energy Systems Laboratory (http://esl.tamu.edu); Texas A&M University (http://www.tamu.edu). Available electronically from