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ENERGETIC WILLOW

A noble variant of the well – known “Osier willow”, the Energetic Willow – also

known under the name of Fast growing willow, is cultivated for the purpose of

obtaining power resources. Given the interest, one has created varieties adapted to the

various conditions of environment and working.

History

At

the

same

time

with

the

humanity’s

preoccupation

with

finding

new,

unconventional

power

sources,

the

researches

were

directed

towards

different

versions of unconventional power sources, towards agricultural crops, from which

annual productions are obtained, which could represent a secure power source.

The fields where tests have been made and remarkable results have been obtained are

various, beginning with solar energy, wind energy, heat pumps, biomass.

In the agricultural field, various plants have made it on the list of the ones generically

called “energo” such as: osier willow, power grass and various wooden species such

as the acacia, the poplar tree and the willow.

The most spectacular results have been obtained in the field of the willow. While the

rest of forest plants need 3-5 years until they can be harvested and used for energy

purposes, the willow can be harvested annually, having a wooden mass volume of 40-

60 tons/ha of dry material.

The varieties cultivated for this purpose and registered have the following main

characteristics:

- a very large increase in volume – 3-3.5 cm of growth/day

- are resistant to bad weather and various illnesses

- have a high caloric power approx. 4900 kcal/kg

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Botanical characteristics

Willows are dicotyledonous, dioeciously wooden species, with blossoming before

foliage, with entoneophile pollination. Among the over 200 varieties (species) of

willow, the Swedish have selected and cultivated six varieties which have a very high

growth (3 – 3.5 cm/day), a high content of salicylic acid which give them a series of

very advantageous properties such as high caloric power (higher than the beech or the

oak tree), resistance to bad weather, resistance to degradation during storage under the

form of mince (raw matter for pelletization, for briquetting).

The biology of the selected species

The most important characteristic for which it has gained land in its cultivation during

the last years (in Sweden over 50,000 ha, in Hungary over 2,000 ha, Poland, the Baltic

countries, etc.) is that of rapid growth both in the length of the stems as well as in

volume; in addition to this advantage we can also enumerate a series of other

advantages, reason for which during the last 3-4 years it has come to the attention of

several agricultural specialists from various countries, it has also been nominated in a

top position in UE, where the decision has been made for it to be grant aided as a

power giving plant.

These significant advantages are:

- It can be cultivated (it is even recommended) on lands with permanent

or

periodical

swamp

formation.

It

has

a

capacity

of

evapo

perspiration of 15-20 liters of water/day/m 2 . This advantage gives it an

uncontested place as a plant which renders usable thousands of ha of

lands which are in desolation. This fact was noticed by countries such

as Sweden – where for 28 years the energetic willow has already been

cultivated on surfaces of over 50,000 ha, finding a very economic use

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for lands which had been unusable so far, and also cultivating an

unconventional energy source, very profitable from the economic point

of view.

- It has a capacity of annually taking over 20 – 30 tons/ha of mud –

originating from the processing of used waters. This property, besides

the advantage that in an area where the plantation can be flooded with

residues from water processing plants, it grows faster, it also has the

big advantage that residual waters do not need to be biologically

depurated

(costly

operation),

and

on

the

other

hand,

the

waters

resulting from water processing plants – arrive very clean in rivers,

avoiding the pollution of the waters and also the additional costs due to

penalty payments for the inadequate quality of discharged waters.

- The cultivation of the willow creates new jobs, for persons with an

inferior qualification. Harvesting is performed during the vegetal

break, after the falling of the leaves (they serve as fertilizer), that is

during the months November – March, a period when the agricultural

equipments are not used for something else.

- It can be a safe alternative of power sources (heating) for localities,

being used as biomass (mince) briquettes or pellets. There are units

with equipment for pelletization – briquetting of various capacities

which transform the willow mince in briquettes or pellets, and these

products are used for the heating of localities (at least of schools,

kindergartens, dispensaries, etc.) of communes.

Edaphic – climatic conditions

Energetic willows are very resistant to various climatic conditions.

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They first spread in Europe in Sweden and the Baltic Countries, in climatic conditions

specific to the area.

During the last three years it has been cultivated on larger and larger surfaces

(thousands of ha) in Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, in climatic conditions very different

from the first one.

The results after three years of experience in Hungary show that the willow also

behaved very well on sandy soil and in much more elevated temperatures; one has

obtained a crop 45% bigger (approx. 60 tons/ha in Hungary, compared to 40 – 45

tons/ha in Sweden).

The abovementioned facts lead us to the conclusion that on the territory of Romania

there are all the proper conditions for its cultivation (in river beds, floodable unused

areas).

From

the

edaphically

point

of

view,

the

optimal

conditions

are

provided

by

underground water supply or by abundant precipitations, on alluvial soils with pH 5.5

– 6.5, but it also resists on waste with pH 3.5 – 10.0, but with a lower biomass

production.

Utilization possibilities

In principle, this species has been experimented in order to serve as power source

under a different form of fuel (mince – for heating power stations, briquettes, pellets).

The high caloric power (4900 kcal/ha) renders it comparable to other fuel sources

such as natural gases, coal, oil.

By cultivating the willow on larger surfaces (1000 – 1500 ha per area), one justifies

the making of investments such as pelletization factories – which will provide the

power source for localities, both in area heating power plants and in private homes.

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Making a concise calculation – in the hypothesis that in Romania one would make

plantations on 20,000 ha (in Sweden there are over 50,000 ha, Hungary – in the power

program sent to EU for the period 2007 – 2013 – foresees the extension of the power

willow plantations to 36,000 ha), one would obtain 1,000,000 tons of pellets, which

means a thermal energy source of approx. 4,900,00 Gcal of energy – produced on

surfaces which are not cultivated in the present – and this source annually repeats.

The thermal energy which can be obtained from this source provides the heating of

145,000 conventional apartments annually.

By extending the energetic willow plantations, besides the fact that it represents a

renewable power source, it makes use of unused lands, it helps avoid (or considerably

reduces) tree cutting generated by the increasing need for cheap fuel.

Besides the use for power purposes, the power willow is also successfully used in the

following fields:

- as a source of cellulose;

- for fixating abrupt slopes and preventing landslide

- for making aspirin (in Germany)

- for producing methanol

In the case of extension of the plantations, one can resort to mechanizations, both for

planting and for harvesting it.

There is a range of special machinery in the Northern countries which can be

successfully adapted to the existing agricultural equipment.

Which are the problems standing in the way of extending these plantations?

a) the lack of information on the existence and the advantages of these varieties

b) the lack of regulations in the field of making plantations, regarding:

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1.

The clarification of the field where it is included – agricultural

plant or wooden (forest) species?

2. Whose regulations is it subjected to – that of agricultural plants or

forest plants?

3. Establishing the grant aid modality

4. Establishing the grant aid conditions

5. Inclusion

in

various

processing the biomass

More detailed:

national

programs

of

cultivating

and

1. The power willow is a plant with existence duration spring – fall, so

during an agricultural year. The plantation is made by planting the

slips, made in certified nursery gardens, observing all the regulations

regarding certified varieties. There is the possibility that the crop is to

be made every two years, but the experience of the advanced states in

this field shows that the most advantageous is the annual cropping

(months November – February; March, according to area). Because of

this fact (annual cropping) there have been in situations in which it was

classified in the category of agricultural plants – with medical and

annual subventions, similar to the agricultural production. During the

last period at UE level it was made the decision that the energy plants

be funded in a distinct manner, and it was left at the full discretion of

each member country, to decide on the classification manner.

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2.

In all the countries where the energetic willow plantations have a

significant scope – they have been classified in the “special” category

of wooden species, submitting to the forestry regulations, as plantation,

but special regarding its cropping (does not require approvals for

cropping).

3. The subvention manner has been established initially at 200 Euro /

ha (in Sweden, Hungary) in each cropping year.

A plantation has a life of 25-30 years in which in the first year of life

the production is insignificant, of about 40-45 to/ha (according to

Swedish evidences and 50-60 to/ha in Hungary).

This crop provides a considerable revenue to the cultivators (approx.

1400 euro/ha) and without the annual subvention, but the development

of the cultures has been slow, because of the significant costs of

plantation (approx. 2000 Euro/ha).

In the year 2006 – most of states moved to subvention with 50% of

plantation costs, renouncing to the annual subvention.

After this measure, in Hungary, in this fall – the requests for slips and

registration of lands for plantation has increased with more than 50%,

and in Sweden is considered to be the most viable solution for

accomplishing the UE provisions, that each member country covers

12% of the energy consumption from unconventional sources.

4. Subvention conditions are clearly specified for the UE countries and

apply as standard method.

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a. the manufacturers must make proof of ownership of the

agricultural land or of a long term lease.

b. the manufacturers must make proof that they have used slips

of registered varieties and from certified nursery gardens

c. the manufacturers must make proof of an acquisition contract

with a user – who produces energy directly from biomass, or

manufactures

products

(briquettes, pellets)

that

are

used

for

this

purpose

d. the contractor (purchaser) must make proof that he has the

means by which to transform the biomass in energy (area

heating power station, heating power station) or in products that

serve to this purpose (briquetting lines or pellettizing lines)

e. the purchaser pays a security per ha of plantation for which

he made a purchase contract (the total varies between countries,

values contained between 15-40 Euro/ha) security that he can

recuperate at the moment of recuperating the contracted crop.

By these five measures are guaranteed that the petitioner (manufacturer) has the land for which he requests subvention, that he has used slips of registered varieties, that the manufacturer has sale meant for the purpose of energy production and in the end is guaranteed that the purchaser has the technical ability to transform the biomass in an energy source but also the fact that the contracted quantities takes it over ( for release of security).

The intention of the authors of this material is to notice the opportunity that represents the expansion of power willow to develop an unconventional source.

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