Central New York Resource Conservation & Development Project

CNY RC&D (http://www.cnyrcd.org/former%20projects.htm) formerly hosted a project called the Willow Biomass Project. The project was funded through the US Department of Energy's Biomass Power for Rural Development Program. CNY RC&D worked with the "Salix Consortium", which includes companies and organizations such as Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation, State University of New York - College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF), NYS Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Cornell University's Departments of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and Ornithology, and Antares Group, Inc. The goal of the project was to "commercialize willow bioenergy crops as locally grown, renewable feedstock for bioproducts and bioenergy."

In 1998, the Salix Consortium planted 90 acres of willow on private land leased in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties. In the spring of 1999, 200 more acres were planted. In the spring of 2000, 175 acres were planted on leased land, and 25 acres were planted by the project's first contracted farmer-grower. Research into the benefits of willow plantings to wildlife were conducted by SUNY ESF, which studied the biodiversity of soil microarthropods, and Cornell's Ornithology department, which studied bird nesting and migrational use of willow fields.

According to Phil Metzger of the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (p: 607-334-4715 x4, e: phil.metzger@ny.usda.gov), the goal of this project was to get farmers involved and to demonstrate that willow could be grown and harvested successfully in the region. The willow was not sold for commercial use during this time. Metzger says there were no "green energy" incentives at the time, and that the market was the prime determinant of whether or not willow could be a viable biomass crop. When the study was conducted the prices of coal and natural gas were low, creating a non-competitive market for greener energy. It might be more successful now, he conjectures, as there is more of a movement toward greener energy sources.

CNY RC&D's role was to get local farmers involved and see who would grow the willow, as well as educational outreach. The willow was never intended for residential or small commercial use. Rather, it was harvested and chipped, and then burned by a power plant in Western NY. The idea was to show the power plant that if they needed renewable fuels they could use willow. There was no plan for the material's use in wood stoves, but there was a lot of talk regarding other ways to harvest the willow, if it had caught on commercially.

Last updated March 7, 2016