Assessing Biomass Potential in Tompkins County Essay

Submitted By jontsai87
Words: 2153
Pages: 9

Assessing Biomass Potential in Tompkins County
CRP 5080 Final Project

Introduction
As fuel prices continue to rise and concerns about global warming take center stage, we must seek to find alternative ways to create energy. Solar, wind, nuclear, and hydro all show promising signs of becoming viable sources of sustainable energy production, but their cost and hazard risk have prevented them from producing the amount of energy we need to stabilize both climate change and the extraction of non-renewable resources. Energy production from biomass is another area that has begun to draw more attention. Wood remains the largest source of energy in this method. Other sources including food crops, grassy and woody plants, residues from agriculture or forestry, and oil rich algae are also inputs1 . Currently, biomass energy comprises 4.5% of national energy consumption2. For the sake of economy and the environment we must continue to explore the ways in which we can utilize this renewable resource Tompkins County has asked for an examination of the woody biomass potential of public and private land. Woody biomass includes product from trees and woody plants including limbs, tops, needles, leaves, and other woody parts that are the byproducts of forest management3. The study will focus on existing forested area, but brush land and barren, inactive agricultural land will also be taken into account as possible locations for woody biomass harvest farms. This is a broad and preliminary study designed to complement a larger, longer, and more extensive study. It begins by looking at the total forested, brush and grassland, and inactive agriculture area as potential sites for biomass production. The process progresses each step by subtracting areas with non-suitable attributes. The analysis concludes with a map illustrating the forests, brush and grasslands, and inactive agriculture suitable for biomass production.

1 2

http://www.nrel.gov/learning/re_biomass.html http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/energy-overview/biomass/ 3 http://www.fs.fed.us/woodybiomass/whatis.shtml

Assumptions
This study attempts to find a starting point; it is a broad, preliminary examination of what is a complex process. Going forward, certain factors need to be studied in detail in order to progress toward any sort if implementation of a biomass production system. We recommend a survey of the following: -Use of Private land- This analysis includes private and residential land larger than ten acres as an available site for biomass. Although some studies have taken place, the willingness of land owners to utilize their land for this purpose is yet to be determined. -Potential of Inactive Agricultural Land and Tree farms- Included as potential biomass production sites were inactive agricultural areas and tree farms. It must be determined which sites are the most suitable for growing and harvesting of biomass. -Roads- A 100 foot buffer was placed around all roads within the county. Some roads will require a larger buffer while some will require a smaller buffer. 100 feet was used as a general rule of thumb. -Biomass production facilities- The viability of these sites will depend on their proximity to a facility where biomass can be transported and converted into energy. The longer the distance between the two sites, the less benefit accrued. -State Forests- All state forest land outside of UNA’s was considered viable in this analysis. Coordination between the State of New York and Tompkins County will be necessary in determining which areas are appropriate for biomass production. -Hillslope- Based on research from consultation, we assumed land with less than a 15 degree slope was suitable and land with greater than a 15 degree was not. -Streams- A 100 foot buffer was placed around streams. This is an average. There will be some streams that require a larger buffer while some will require a smaller buffer. - Vegetation Density- Some land areas are