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Evaluation of poplar wood as an energetic crop for biomass power utilities

The european directive 2009/28/ce promotes the participation of biomass from renewable sources. The goal of the project is to investigate the aplication of poplar as an energy crop for electricity generation from biomass, in order to increase the percentage of biomass in the energy mix.

Nowadays, most of the biomass resources come from agriculture and forests associated residues. Land crops are oriented to food supply and just the remaining wastes are used for energy production. Recently, some woody species traditionally used for wood industry are beginning to be utilized as fuel (eucalyptus, willow, etc.). This work intends to guarantee the viability of energy crops production based on one of those species: the poplar. Thus, further research works in poplar genetics is needed in order to obtain a specimen able to regenerate itself in short periods of time and so ensure a constant supply of poplar wood. Moreover, soil properties and environmental conditions must to be attended in order to obtain the suitable poplar clone for the geographic situation where the plantation set has been planned (South of Navarra). Moreover, despite the long tradition of biomass usage, energy crops for biomass has not been properly optimized so a great research effort is still necessary in order to boost this energy resource. First step in achieving this goal is to guarantee the raw material supply and characterize its energy properties. Because of this, two different research lines have been defined: Field cultivation and mechanization activities. INVER and ANC will cooperate along this activity in order to obtain improved poplar species adapted to the Spanish environment conditions by means of genetic selection. Poplar has been selected for this project due its short growing cycle, its ability to form sprouts on the stump and specially because every poplar grown from a stump, branch or root of another poplar is genetically identical to its predecessor, what is helpful when trying to characterize the raw material. The clone will be selected seeking for the fastest growth, the best conformation and an improved disease resistance. Once the most suitable poplar species and clones have been selected, plantation and harvest procedures will be designed and developed. Crop performance is closely related to the plantation framework, normal trunk diameter and poplar height. Thus, these parameters will be optimized in order to reach the maximum performance per hectare. The research will attend to mechanization necessities, plantation framework optimization and environment improvement. Also poplar growth will be analyzed in order to define the ideal timing for tree felling. Characterization and enhancement of poplar splinter as an energetic resource. Once the poplar wood has been harvested, material characterization will be necessary in order to fix biomass entry conditions and define the optimum storage conditions. Poplar splinter size and humidity variation have an important impact on the energy generation process and thus they are key aspects for the use of poplar wood as energy resource. Therefore, research will be carried out in order to define the maximum allowable humidity degree of the wood for biomass utilization, as well as the drying procedure and the specific shape and size which maximizes the energy extraction. Also, the silo characteristics will be defined: size, humidity and temperature conditions, storage distribution, etc. These are common requirements for biomass energy exploitation, and for the time being, there is not any known research focus on these aspects for poplar based biomass. Poplar biomass use will be oriented to gasification or combustion of the poplar wood, although alternative methods could be attended along the project development. In any case, it is worth noting that biomass combustion will not have an environment impact since the amount of emitted CO2 will be just the same that the CO2 fixed in the wood while its cultivation. Therefore, the whole cycle has a neutral CO2 balance. Additionally, biomass-solar thermal energy hybridization will be analyzed. The consortium will count on CENER (the Spanish National Renewable Energy Centre) for further research on hybrid biomass-solar energy generation, in order to achieve a constant energy generation based on both sustainable energy resources. This research will define the main advantages and disadvantages of the system attending to Spanish climate and legislation. Finally, although the main biomass raw material will be poplar, other kind of biomass will also be studied in order to find a complementary supply. However, this alternative material will have to suit the defined process for poplar wood. It is known that there exists an inversely proportional relationship between biomass diversity and biomass plant efficiency. Thus, further studies will be carried out in order to detect alternative herbaceous or woody materials which complement poplar wood without altering the defined system.
Acronym: 
ENERGY POPLAR+
Project ID: 
5 807
Start date: 
25-01-2010
Project Duration: 
32months
Project costs: 
1 390 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Solid biomass
Market Area: 
ENERGY

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