Growing Willows as Biofuel
by Jane Milliman (Democrat and Chronicle) Normally the word “willow” brings to mind those huge weepers that hug stream banks or the sticks with big fuzzy buds you can harvest in the early spring. But here in upstate New York we have something called the Willow Biomass Project, which takes shrub willows out of the ornamentals (or weeds) realm and instead treats them as a renewable raw material for heat, biofuels and biodegradable polymers. The project, headed up at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry, has been operating quietly for almost 20 years.
…SUNY-ESF claims that in addition to the potential economic benefits, willow farming also benefits the environment. The plants absorb more carbon than is produced making any of their various ultimate products. They can stabilize stream banks and absorb some of the run-off from agriculture. Stands of willow provide excellent habitats, especially for birds. The willow farming process uses fewer pesticides than traditional agriculture. Willows make good living snow fences. And last but not least, they’re pretty. READ MORE