Global energy use projections predict that biomass will be an important source of renewable energy in the coming decades. Short-rotation woody crops will be the prime source of this biomass. However, the sustainability of woody crops has been questioned. Using internationally accepted forest sustainability criteria, an assessment of willow biomass crops indicates that they are sustainable compared to agricultural land and the fossil fuel-based energy systems they will replace. Assessing each criterion also reveals aspects of willow crop systems that should be addressed to further improve sustainability. Biological characteristics and management of willow create a structurally diverse habitat for an array of species and protect soil and water resources. Biomass from willow crops can be used to produce energy with no net addition of CO2 to the atmosphere. The implementation of good management practices will maintain productivity over multiple rotations. Rural development and environmental benefits associated with deployment and use will accrue to the local community because of the willow system"s short supply chain. The economic valuation of these benefits are necessary for the deployment of woody crops, which in turn can help society become more sustainable.

Publication Information
Author: 
Timothy A. Volk
Theo Verwijst
Pradeep J. Tharakan
Lawrence P. Abrahamso
Edwin H. White
Publication Year: 
2004
DOE Information
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