Currently, a lot of attention is paid to environmental issues and access to clean and renewable energy. Its production from fossil sources is harmful to the environment, in addition, this energy is constantly decreasing and becoming more and more expensive. It is worth getting interested in the cultivation of an energetic, fast-growing willow-shrub with a large increase in wood in its mass.
The energy willow was developed a few years ago in Sweden. An undemanding and frost-resistant plant was obtained as a result of selection by Swedish scientists.
Interesting fact! The fast growing willow tree is considered the cheapest and most renewable energy source in the world today.
THE IDEA OF GROWING WOOD IS ECONOMICALLY AND ENVIRONMENTALLY BENEFICIAL
Energy crops have zero carbon emissions. Thus, they produce as much energy during combustion as they took from the air during growth. They also have many other benefits.
Advantages of agribusiness for growing willow for fuel:
- Comparing 1 ha of forest and 1 ha of willow cultivation, we get about 15 times more wood mass from willow than from forest.
- The yield of fast-growing energy willow from 1 hectare of energy forest is about 20-30 tons of pure wood pulp per year. This is the calorific value of 8m2 of fuel oil or 10 tons of coal. Also remember that this is an annually renewable material. Thus, the crop is harvested for 25-30 years. This is why it is such an economically and environmentally attractive investment in energy fast growing willow.
- One ton of firewood costs about $ 40, that is, the gross production from 1 hectare of energy willow is from $ 800 to $ 1200.
Of course, you still need to prepare and pack the harvest of firewood. You will need equipment for splitting and sawing firewood, and for large areas of energy plantations – a willow harvester for harvesting willow in sheaves. As a result, the return on investment from 1 hectare will significantly decrease, but the volume of commodity-money turnover will increase.
THE PROFITABILITY OF GROWING FAST-GROWING WILLOW FOR FIREWOOD
When growing energy willow, the investor should keep in mind that it is not the most profitable crop. However, the energy willow guarantees a stable and reliable annual income. After all, as agribusinessmen in Japan say: “To do half of the work – to sell it!” And the demand for energy resources will always grow. In addition, energy subsidies for willow from the Agency for Restructuring and Modernization of Agriculture are provided in the same way as for other crops.
One willow sapling costs about $ 0.05. For planting 1 hectare, 35-45 thousand pieces of seedlings are needed. That is, it will only be required for planting up to $ 2,250 per hectare. The profitability per hectare of energy forest is described in detail below.
TECHNOLOGY FOR GROWING FAST-GROWING ENERGY WILLOW
It is immediately worth noting the requirements for the soil that must be observed when growing willow. It is important to know exactly the structure of the land on which you plan to create an energy plantation of fast growing willows for growing firewood. It is very important that there is no impermeable layer in the soil through which the willow cannot grow roots in search of water. If there is such a layer, it should be plowed or cultivated. It is better if the energy willow grows in the areas of river tributaries or near water bodies. Then there will be the greatest confidence that each seedling will achieve optimal performance.
Soils of the 3rd, 4th, 5th and even 6th grade are quite suitable for cultivation. Especially those considered too wet for traditional crops. These are, for example, fields that are often flooded with rivers. However, you must be careful that there are no problems accessing the flooded fields for harvesting firewood. In any case, water is very important for high yields of willow firewood. Especially in the first year of cultivation, when the willow has a weak root system. If from March to the end of August he does not receive an adequate portion of water, the harvest may even halve. By growing firewood for energy from the fast-growing willow, it is possible to use land not intended for growing agricultural crops for food or fodder for livestock feed.
The energetic willow copes very well with sludge from sewage treatment plants and septic tanks. It can be planted along the perimeter of the sump – as a result, the sump will never have to be pumped out again. Moreover, it will not only hide behind the willows, but there will not even be an unpleasant smell from it. This is good news for those who grow energy willow on low quality land. However, it should be remembered that the application of fertilizer with sludge in sewage treatment plants is governed by numerous rules aimed at protecting the environment.
PURCHASE OF MACHINES FOR CUTTING WILLOW FOR THE PRODUCTION OF CHIPS AND BRIQUETTES
Good soil and terrain are not enough for success in agribusiness! You still need to buy the right equipment and tools. Depending on the size of the energy forest area and the volume of investment opportunities, there are different ways of harvesting energy from willow.
According to breeders, wood harvesting can be done manually, for example:
- Using a brush cutter with a disc mounted (cost about $ 400).
- Chainsaw (about $ 120 – $ 250).
- Scissors for pruning (from $ 15-$ 50).
- Special petrol-powered mower with a saw ($ 250-$ 500).
Harvesting willow by mechanical methods can be carried out using a variety of equipment and tools. It all depends on the volume, time spent, required productivity and financial capabilities.
Equipment for cleaning firewood:
- Specialized willow mini-harvester or willow mower with a reinforced strip ($ 1,250).
- Harvesting in small areas is also done with a brush cutter ($ 100).
- An energy harvester for an energy forest with automated functions for preparing and packing firewood directly into sheaves. Such a miracle technique costs about $ 30,000 – $ 45,000.
However, as farmers warn, the cost of the combine is very high, and often farmers cannot afford such luxurious self-propelled machines.
HARVESTING FIREWOOD FROM FAST GROWING WILLOW
The cut shoots are tied into bunches and then shredded, for example, using a homemade branch chopper or a traditional chopper. According to farmers, the buyer will pay more for dried willow, because then the price will be higher. And the smaller tonnage does not matter. To prepare the manufactured products, the following list of equipment will be required:
- A typical straw chopper required to produce wood chips costs about $ 250 – $ 1,000.
- Wood shredder driven by a 2 kW electric motor – about $ 200.
- Wood chipper – about $ 750.
For the production of willow briquettes you will need:
- Drying chamber ($ 17,000 – $ 32,000).
- Hydraulic briquetting machine with crusher ($ 5,000).
- Cyclone screw conveyor (2,000 $ -4,000 $).
HOW TO MAKE MONEY GROWING WILLOW FIREWOOD?
First of all:
- In the production and sale of wood briquettes.
- When selling biomass for heating to individuals.
- Sale to processors (for example, in the production of wood briquettes).
The purchase price of biomass is about $ 25 – $ 40 per 1 ton. Depending on the region. In addition, you can also make money selling biomass for heating / energy to large power plants (district heating, thermal power plants, power plants).
The largest power plant in Europe, operating on the combustion of woody biomass for the purpose of converting heat into electricity, is located in Simmering (in German Simmering – Austria Alpine Republic). The power of the power plant is 66 MW. The station uses up to 190 thousand tons of biomass every year, concentrated within a radius of one hundred kilometers to the station. Its consumption of fuelwood is growing every year. The operation of the station makes it possible to reduce annual CO2 emissions by 144 thousand tons.
PROS AND CONS OF WILLOW FIREWOOD AGRIBUSINESS
To obtain an objective assessment of the efficiency of investing financial resources in the production of bio-fuels from energy fast-growing willow wood, positive and negative information is needed. Let’s try to objectively analyze all the pros and cons of a business idea.
Pros of growing fast-growing willow for bio-fuel
There will always be a demand for energy, all living things in this world are fighting for energy every day. Moreover, the growth potential of green energy and the need for bio-fuel is growing exponentially every year. More and more electric vehicles appear, but today all power plants in the world are not able to cover the need for electricity if all cars are electric. Therefore, new wood-fired power plants will constantly appear.
Can be sold as a supply of raw materials to industrial enterprises that produce fuel briquettes from wood. You can also think about your own production of pellets (fuel pellets for autonomous bio-boilers with automatic feeding of bulk fuel under digital control) and briquettes, as a parallel leading industrial business.
You will have free fuel in your own home. And the money saved is the money earned! Stocks of firewood will save heating costs in winter. Moreover, you can purchase your own small wood-fired power plant to save on electricity all year round. For the same reason, you can change to an electric car, so you can still save on monthly fuel costs. It is an ideal business for complete autonomy and energy independence of its owner.
An important plus is the secure format for storing energy. No special security systems are required in comparison with other types of material energy sources. In other words, firewood will not explode from the slightest spark like gas or liquid fuel. There will be no leakage from expensive batteries in the case of energy storage. Storing energy in wood is several times safer, cheaper and more reliable than any other form.
There will also be a profit from the sale of seedlings (the price of one is approximately $ 0.05 – from 1 hectare in the energy forest, you can get approximately up to 30,000 seedlings).
In addition, willow shoots can be used to create:
- wicker garden furniture;
- road rugs;
- decorative fences;
- particle boards.
And also as rhizomes for grafting trees. In addition, you can build beautiful gazebos in gardens at summer cottages or on personal plots near a country house.
Cons of growing willow for firewood
Of course, there are skeptics – they point to the high costs of harvesting, cutting and transporting willow. In addition, the crop is exposed to various “dangers”: the harmful effects of insects, aphids, and wild animals (for example, deer usually break willow at a height of 1 m, which inhibits plant development).
Another disadvantage, according to skeptics, is the fact that you cannot mow willow annually to get a good harvest. And it is better to harvest firewood from your willow plantation in a year, otherwise the profitability of agribusiness will significantly decrease, especially in the first years.
According to skeptics, energy companies are moving away from purchasing willow biomass from domestic producers in favor of cheaper imports from China. Therefore, farmers believe that growing willow energy can only pay off well when planted in large energy forests of 10-50 hectares.
Both skeptics and proponents of energy willow cultivation agree that the cost recovery of an energy forest is only possible a few years after its creation. The client pays to get heat, for example, from ecological heating installations. Wood chips are popular, but in higher capacity heating systems (e.g. hotels, schools, hospitals) because larger boilers are better at burning this type of bio-fuel.
Nevertheless, despite all the disadvantages, many small farms and even individual entrepreneurs make good money on small areas, saving on expensive equipment. Inexpensive corn mowers are used to cut willow bushes. Thick trunks are cut with hand saws, etc. Cheap, cheerful, but profitability remains at a high level, albeit with a small money turnover of agribusiness.
Any cultivation is very profitable if the demand is high – assure the farmer and the owners of willow plantations. Well-designed and manicured energy forests have been generating long-term profits for decades. In addition, this is an environmental business – which is very important today!
An objective analysis of investing in an energy forest to create a stable multi-year income from an annual firewood harvest. Advantages and disadvantages of growing fast-growing energy willow for bio-fuel. Business idea with calculations of expenses and incomes of agribusiness. Indicators of profitability and payback periods are given.