Going Green: Grant encouraging the planting and harvesting of shrub willow
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A $4.3 million federal grant is being used to encourage landowners in nine central and northern New York counties to plant and harvest shrub willow.
“We will make or cost/share 75 percent of the cost of installing the practice. We figure it’s about a thousand dollars an acre to install so USDA will be picking up just shy of $750, about $741 actually. And then in addition to that a rental payment equal to the average soil rental rate, cropland rate, in the county the land is located in and then we are adding a 25 percent incentive on top of that,” said Virginia Green of the USDA.
When the shrub willow is harvested, about every three years, it will be sold under contract to ReEnergy Holdings who will use it to produce power in one of three generating facilities like this one under development at Fort Drum.
Dr. Timothy Volk of SUNY ESF said, “Shrub willow has been under development here in New York for over 25 years, so there’s a lot of experience. There’s 40,000 acres of willow being grown commercially in Europe already, so it’s at the point it’s ready to go commercial.”
Plus, shrub willow grows well in a variety of soils and on land that has poor drainage.
“Willow grows extremely fast on those types of land. Even if they’re marginal for other traditional agricultural crops, willow can grow very well and produce more biomass per acre, per year than any other woody crop that has been looked at in this region,” said Volk.
Green said, “I think that there’s an emphasis within the administration to look for renewable energy to replace some of the fossil fuels we’re using in the country and this is the first program that USDA has had where we have paid for or assisted in the establishment of these energy type crops/”
The deadline to contact your local USDA office about the program is September 14th.