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Energy and climate benefits of bioelectricity from low-input short rotation woody crops on agricultural land over a two-year rotation

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Short-rotation woody crops (SRWCs) are a promising means to enhance the EU renewable energy sources while mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, there are concerns that the GHG mitigation potential of bioelectricity may be nullified due to GHG emissions from direct land use changes (dLUCs). In order to evaluate quantitatively the GHG mitigation potential of bioelectricity from SRWC we managed an operational SRWC plantation (18.4 ha) for bioelectricity production on a former agricultural land without supplemental irrigation or fertilization. We traced back to the primary energy level all farm labor, materials, and fossil fuel inputs to the bioelectricity production. We also sampled soil carbon and monitored fluxes of GHGs between the SRWC plantation and the atmosphere. We found that bioelectricity from SRWCs was energy efficient and yielded 200227% more energy than required to produce it over a two-year rotation. The associated land requirement was 0.9 View the MathML sourcem2kWhe-1 for the gasification and 1.1 View the MathML sourcem2kWhe-1 for the combustion technology. Converting agricultural land into the SRWC plantation released 2.8 ± 0.2 t CO2e ha−1, which represented ∼89% of the total GHG emissions (256272 g CO2e View the MathML sourcekWhe-1) of bioelectricity production. Despite its high share of the total GHG emissions, dLUC did not negate the GHG benefits of bioelectricity. Indeed, the GHG savings of bioelectricity relative to the EU non-renewable grid mix power ranged between 52% and 54%. SRWC on agricultural lands with low soil organic carbon stocks are encouraging prospects for sustainable production of renewable energy with significant climate benefits.
Journal: Applied Energy
ISSN: 0306-2619
Volume: 111
Pages: 862 - 870
Publication year:2013
Keywords:Applied chemistry & chemical engineering, Energy & fuels