Research Project Information

Research Project Summary Information

Renewable Energy Technology Options Program:Reducing the Cost of Willow Biomass by Reducing Harvesting Costs(ST8207-1)

SUNY Research Foundation


NYSERDA is conducting an ongoing effort to commercialize willow. This project complements that work by improving a piece of equipment that has performed poorly in the past; the harvester head. Harvesters from Europe do not work well in New York because they are not sized appropriately to handle New York willows that have thicker stems. Chip quality from undersized European harvesters is unacceptable.

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Project Description

Work addressed a barrier to the commercial deployment of willow biomass crops in North America; the lack of efficient and cost-effective willow harvesting systems that produce consistent quality chips. Researchers working with industry developed a new harvester head that works with an existing harvester. The harvester would still be usable (with a different head) with conventional crops.


The objectives are to lower overall production costs for willow by 10-20%, produce chips of uniform consistency in varying selected sizes, and establish New York manufacturing facilities for a new harvester head that costs $75,000 - $100,000. Product sales in the first year are targeted at 1-2 units, increasing to 8-10 units after five years.

Project Results

Stage One work involved designing the head and reviewing chip specifications. During Stage One, a New Holland FX45 forage harvester with a modified Kemper corn head was tested in willow crops in central New York. The FX45 harvester effectively produced consistent size chips with a size distribution that was acceptable to end users. Still, the modified Kemper corn head was only effective for short periods of time and not robust enough for harvesting large scale willow crops. After reviewing existing willow harvesting systems, a willow cutting head was ordered from Coppice Resources Ltd (CRL) in the United Kingdom. The CRL head is able to harvest willow crops with size dimensions and yields similar to willow grown in New York. Nevertheless, the current CRL head fits onto a Claas Jaguar forage harvester and needs to be redesigned to fit a New Holland FX45 forage harvester. An initial redesign of the CRL head was made, the operation of the current head was observed harvesting willow in the field, and important design modifications, including changing the drive of the new CRL head from mechanical to hydraulic, were agreed on. SUNY-ESF ordered a modified hydraulic driven CRL willow cutting head in August 2005. Delivery to SUNY-ESF is expected by the spring of 2006.


SUNY Research Foundation
Empire State Plaza Concourse Level Rm 106
Albany, NY 12224

Principle Investigator

Larry Abrahamson

Universities Involved

SUNY College of Environmental Science an


Project Type:

Indigenous/Renewable Energy Resources

Technologies Types:

NYSERDA Contact Information

Judy Jarnefeld


R&D - Environment & Energy Res

Contract Details

Start Date: 1/11/2010
Project Status: Active
Contract Number: ST8207-1

Last Updated: 12/1/2010