Research Project Information

Research Project Summary Information

Biomass Crops as Source of Fuel(ST9191-1)



NYSERDA has an ongoing effort to commercialize willow, a potential energy crop for farmers. Willow can be used to make biopower, either alone in wood boilers or co-fired with coal. This project provided an important step toward commercialization of those efforts by joining New York willow producers for the first time with a wood-to-energy facility, the Lyonsdale Biomass Power Plant.

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Project Description

The goal of this project was to identify and pre-develop specific sites for the production and use of closed-loop willow biomass within a 50-mile radius of the Lyonsdale Biomass Power Plant. The researchers ultimately hoped to show the facility, which burns wood, that 20-30% of its fuel could come from willow that costs similar to other wood fuels. This equates to 3.8-5.7 MW of closed-loop renewable power.


The project helped support a robust renewable portfolio by fostering the development of promising renewable energy technologies in New York. Willow crops used for power production are CO2-neutral, have a large net energy ratio, can lower emissions relative to the current grid mix, and are grown and used locally, creating a sustainable and dependable fuel supply while contributing to rural development. Through this project a number of essential questions were addressed and significant progress was made in deploying willow biomass crops in the region. Numerous outreach and educational activities helped students, landowners, local and regional policy makers, biomass suppliers and other end users learn about the potential for willow biomass crops and other woody biomass supplies in the region. Planting and harvesting demonstrations are an important step in the process of moving from yield plots to commercial deployment of willow. There is considerable potential for woody biomass production in this region, but the study did not assess the perceptions and attitudes of people in the region that might limit the supply. Ongoing educational and outreach efforts are needed.

Project Results

An assessment of the woody biomass supply from forests and farmland in a 50 mile radius around the Lyonsdale Biomass Power Plant found up to 10 times the biomass currently used at the facility is technically available. More than 1.3 million acres of timberland could provide up to 1.7 million oven dry tons (odt) of wood per year, and almost 400,000 acres of farmland fit the criteria for growing willow biomass crops. If just 10% of this farmland was used to grow willow with an average yield of5 odt acre-1 yr-1 , almost 200,000 odt of woody biomass could be produced each year. When the supply shed was limited to a 50 mile road network, the technically available supply from both forests and willow crops was reduced by about 1/3. Two yield trials indicated some willow varieties can reach the production target of5 odt acre-1 yr-1 , even in areas with shorter growing season and poorer soils. Proper site preparation and good weed control is needed during the establishment of willow biomass crops. A new system used forage wagons and blowers to collect willow chips from the harvester and transfer them to waiting trucks. The chips moved smoothly through the Lyonsdale Biomass Power Plant, indicating that their quality and consistency was very good. Chips harvested and stored in a pile in early May decreased in moisture over the next four months before starting to increase again. The chips’ energy content also increased slightly, indicating that piling and storing chips may be benefic


200 Bray Hall, 1 Forestry Dr The Office of Research Program
Syracuse, NY 13210

Principle Investigator

Tim Volk

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: ST9191-1

Last Updated: 3/12/2012