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Energy Crops

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This is why, many farmers see the growing of energy crops for solid biofuel as a great business opportunity. One of the main advantages of energy crops over other agricultural crops is that they can be planted on damaged or sloping land, where other crops will never grow. Moreover, they grow very quickly and have a high heat capacity.

This is why, many farmers see the growing of energy crops for solid biofuel as a great business opportunity. One of the main advantages of energy crops over other agricultural crops is that they can be planted on damaged or sloping land, where other crops will never grow. Moreover, they grow very quickly and have a high heat capacity.

Among the most popular energy plants are energy willow, poplar and acacia, miscanthus or elephant grass, millet, oil shrub and safflower.

The energy willow is a dicotyledonous woody plant, which grows extremely fast – up to 3.5 cm per day, and has higher calorific value than the beech and oak, i.e. 4900Kcal, which is comparable to the coal or natural gas.

The energy willow can be planted on unused farmland, thus reducing the need for deforestation and generating cheap fuel. Willows are a fairly undemanding crop to grow with a 25 to 30-year life. Starting with the second year of growth they require no other intervention but harvesting.

The heat resulting from a 100 ha plantation can roughly heat up about 35 thousands sq.m. of living space, i.e. more than 7 thousand flats.

Sweden already grows about 50 000 ha of energy willow, which produces after the first year’s growth about 10 tons of plant material per hectare, and starting with the second year the production reaches 40 tons/ha.

Hungary grows willow on about 2 000 ha. Due to its higher temperatures than in Sweden, the production reaches 60 tons/ha.IMG_1334

Moldova also has several plantations of energy willow. One of them is in Bozieni village in the Hancesti district and belongs to Biagro Invest. Vladimir Bragaru planted energy willow on two hectares back in 2013 and intends to extend it to 1000 ha.

There are also Pawlonia and energy poplar plantations in Moldova. They, however, have not been homologated yet.

There is one 70 ha plantation of Pawlonia Cotevisa 2, a clone obtained in a laboratory in Spain, in the village of Andrusul de Jos in the Cahul district. The trees are already 4-5 m high and can be harvested up to 5 times, because their trunks need just one year to recover.

The Energy and Biomass Project helps the extension of the biofuel market and the supply of qualified staff by providing support to the Moldovan vocational schools. Three of them introduced in 2015 new modules for future foresters, including the Energy Plants – a Renewable Energy Source module. Finally, the students of the Orhei vocational school will have direct access to the technologies they study, as the school has now its own plantation of energy willow and acacia.

Benefits of energy crops

  • Can grow on wetlands
  • Can make useful the uncultivated land
  • Resistant to various weather conditions
  • Grow well in sandy soil and at high temperatures
  • Can serve as protective strips for dams or forest belts
  • Suitable environment for animals (rabbits, partridges, etc.)
  • Timber production capacity – 30 tons/year
  • Contribute to significantly reduce deforestation
  • Have the capacity to use about 20-30 tons of residual sludge
  • Assimilate carbon dioxide – release oxygen
  • Contribute to creation of new jobs
  • Reliable energy source, either as biomass or as pellets and briquettes
  • Source of cellulose
  • Contain salycil – can be used to produce aspirin

 

SWEDISH WILLOW

It is not edible, nor can it be used for any decoration purposes. This type of willow likes cooler weather and moist soil. It grows amazingly fast – three centimeters per day, and does not require any special treatment. Willows are famous for growing and absorbing carbon dioxide very quickly provided that they have sufficient water. The energy willow can be planted on sloping land (this is even advisable), near water, on wetlands (either permanent or seasonal). Because its evapotranspiration capacity is 15-20 liters of water per day, it can be grown on thousands of hectares of land, which are not farmed and, thereby, make them usable.

Moreover, the energy willow has the capacity to use 20-30t/ha of sewage sludge yearly. Therefore, there is no need any more for the biological treatment of wastewater (which is costly), as it can be purified by willow.

The Swedish production of willow crops is really impressive – on average 30-40 tons/hectare/year. Moreover, it is very profitable even when grown on small areas, for own consumption and for energy independence. In practical terms, the willow wood is milled and the sawdust is turned into pellets.

Given the soaring price of conventional fuels the demand will be growing. As an environment-friendly and cost-efficient energy alternative, the Swedish willow has an interesting future.

The investments do not exceed 2 000 Euro/ha on a land plot that has been already farmed. Once planted, the willow cuttings will be producing the entire life. After two years, producers can get a profit of 2 800 Euro/ha. The costs are low, not much work to do and no risk. Willow is resistant and farmers do not need to worry about it.

On the other hand, the costs of planting energy willow on derelict land can grow to up to 7 000 – 8 000 Euro/ha, because they will include the costs of preparing the land for planting willow.

Energy willow varieties:

Tora – is a Siberian willow – a crossing of SW and Snake. It has long branches and a shorter trunk than the other species. Its trunk is dark brown and shiny. Tora is often contortioned, inheriting this from the Snake species. The bending can differ from year to year, depending on weather and the chemicals used for treatment. It has high yielding capacity, which makes it the favorite species. Tora is resistant to leaf rusting and pests and is avoided by wild rabbits and deer.

Tordis – is a crossing of Tora and Ulv. It grows exceptionally well even in its first year (when it reaches about 4 m) in the south of Sweden and in Poland. Toris is also resistant to leaf rusting.

Sven – is a crossing of Jorun and BjornSven has lanceolate leaves (looking upwards), straight trunk with rare branches, just like Tora. Sven has a high yielding capacity, is resistant to leaf rusting, but pests prefer its young shoots.

Inger – is a crossing of a Russian species (from Novosibirsk) with Jorr. It grows better in dry soil than the other species. When the harvesting time comes, it is drier than Tora and is denser due to the higher number of secondary shoots. These secondary shoots (sylleptic) are not very resistant and fall when the propagating material is prepared. Inger also is resistant to leaf rusting and pests.

Jorr – is a Dutch species, which resists well the leaf rusting. It grows fast after being planted. Its trunk is dark green and bushy. Although considered to be a “gray” species, Jorr is a reliable crop and is successfully used for wastewater treatment and can easily grow in this kind of environments.

Source: Smart Performance Solution e-Newsletter, distributed by the Ecological Movement of Moldova.

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Foto 1. With mechanical harvesting of willow energy (http://www.recolta.eu)

ENERGY ACACIA

The acacia cuttings take roots easily and grow extremely quickly (2-2.5 m per year). This explains why it can be harvested already in the first year. Moreover, after two years after it was planted, because acacia produces lots of sprouts, the biomass amount doubles from 8-9 to 20 tons/ha. Starting with the third year and in the following 20 years biomass production will be 20 tons/ha/year.

Acacia can be planted both in autumn and spring, from March to April. The costs to plant acacia range between 1 900 and 2 200 Euro per hectare.

Source: https://rubenbudau.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/infiintarea-unei-plantatii-de-salcam-robinia-pseudacacia-scheme-de-plantare/

MISCANTHUS (ELEPHANT GRASS)

Miscanthus is a high yielding energy crop with low costs, seedlings suppliers say. There are no costs for soil conditioners (fertilization), soil works or maintenance. Neither are there any annual costs for seeds/seedlings. The only costs are the harvesting ones.

Miscanthus is a perennial crop, resistant to pests and diseases. Every year its rhizomes will produce new plants.

Miscanthus’ lifespan is at least 25 years.

Miscanthus grows quite well in any kind of soil and needs no fertilizers (although, fertilizers help increase the harvest).

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Foto 2. Culture of Miscanthus (http://www.life.illinois.edu)

In the first two years after planting the Miscanthus, weeds should be either treated with herbicides or pulled out by ploughing the land.

For additional information contact:

Oleg Brînza, business development officer

Tel: 022 83-99-82

Mail: oleg.brinza@undp.org