Coppiced willow farming here

This column appeared in the Waikato Times in August 2008.  I have altered some of the wording to update it for this Hot Topic post.

The change to renewable energy sources can seem daunting. Those with stakes in fossil fuels are often negative, claiming change will be too expensive, too difficult, or not yet necessary. Cries of economic doom have greeted even the modest emissions trading scheme which may or may not be carried forward by the new government.

It was encouraging therefore to read a few months ago of the plans of renewable energy company Pure Power to launch a variety of shrubby willow as a biofuel crop in New Zealand. Biofuels which use food crops or destroy rainforests have had a justifiably bad press. But not all biofuel crops are equal. Coppiced woody plants like the willow Pure Power plans to use have a very good ratio of energy output to the energy put into converting them; they can be grown on poorer soils not used for food production; they require little fertiliser or irrigation; using new technologies they will produce not only biofuel but also a range of products for making paints, resins, adhesives and bioplastics.  Pure Power will have nursery stock ready for planting this year and hopes for a rapid expansion of planting in subsequent years.

Continue reading “Coppiced willow farming here”

Fuel from willows

Interesting interview with Jim Watson, former President of the Royal Society of NZ on Kathryn Ryan’s Nine to Noon programme this morning (podcast here, but only for a week). Watson, the founder scientist of Genesis Research & Development discusses the new Biojoule project being established at Taupo. A species of willow (not the cricket bat kind) will be grown and harvested to produce ethanol as a biofuel, and lignin, a biological chemical alternative to hydrocarbons from fossil fuel as a feedstock for plastics. Home grown technology in every sense of the word.