Woody Biomass and Purpose-Grown Trees as Feedstocks for Renewable Energy

  • Maud A. W. Hinchee
  • Lauren N. Mullinax
  • William H. Rottmann
Chapter
Part of the Biotechnology in Agriculture and Forestry book series (AGRICULTURE, volume 66)

Abstract

Trees and woody biomass currently provide raw materials for pulp, paper and lumber for the traditional wood products industry. The United States produces the largest amount of wood for industrial applications in the world, and the Southeastern US is an important “wood basket” with more than 365 million green short tons (2,000 pounds or 907 kg) of hardwood and pine being harvested annually. Woody biomass can provide renewable energy by direct firing or co-firing of wood for electricity generation or through the production of liquid fuels. The utilization of woody biomass for the production of electric power is already a relatively common practice, but this application is expanding. In addition, the use of lignocellulosic feedstock, such as wood, for the production of liquid fuels, is developing rapidly due to US government mandates for increased use of biofuels in the nation’s transportation fuel supply. Ethanol is the most common biofuel produced from wood, although wood can also be used to produce gasoline and diesel fuels. Many tree species already used for fiber and sawtimber applications can also be used for biopower and biofuels production. Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) is a native tree purpose-grown widely in the Southeastern US for production of pulp, paper and lumber, but it is has also been used for biopower generation. Faster growing hardwood species such as Populus, Salix, and Eucalyptus can be grown as short rotation woody crops due to their rapid growth and ability to coppice. Specific process elements of biopower and biofuel generation processes are affected by certain tree characteristics, and the suitability of different tree species for different energy production technologies are discussed. Genetic improvement and modifications in silvicultural management can improve the economics of using woody biomass for the production of biopower and bioenergy. Short rotation, purpose-grown trees, developed for high biomass productivity and improved processing capabilities, will have a variety of inherent logistical benefits and economic advantages to other plant materials. Genetic improvement of trees, through conventional breeding and biotechnology, will enhance the quality, productivity, and sustainability of purpose-grown trees, enabling them to meet the renewable resource needs of multiple industrial applications, including bioenergy.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maud A. W. Hinchee
    • 1
  • Lauren N. Mullinax
    • 1
  • William H. Rottmann
    • 1
  1. 1.ArborGen, LLCSummervilleUSA

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