Pure Power offers willow cuttings, crop management manual

By Susanne Retka Schill
With the goal of securing a sustainable supply of feedstocks for the production of biofuels and bioproducts, Pure Power's technology center in New Zealand rolled out its commercial offering of salix (willow) cuttings for foresters and farmers, along with a manual titled "Energy Farming with Willow," in early July. The manual covers a range of topics from breeding and propagation to establishment, management, harvesting and pest control.

Singapore-based Pure Power gained its lignocellulosic supply through the acquisition of New Zealand company BioJoule in December 2007. The company has 37 hectares (91 acres) of willow at various stages of development in nursery plantations, said Pure Power Chairman and Chief Executive David Milroy. Enough cuttings will be available to plant 500 hectares (1,200 acres) in 2009 and 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) in 2010, doubling each year thereafter. "This represents a significant step toward yielding a reliable and secure supply of woody biomass for use as a lignocellulosic feedstock from which we can produce a portfolio of biofuels and a range of bioproducts," Milroy said. Pure Power will process the woody biomass to produce ethanol for fuel, xylitol for food sweetening and lignin for the production of biopolymers.

Pure Power has evaluated different hybrids, selecting seedlings for vigor and fast-growth characteristics that would double plant growth rates and biomass yields. "The best verified production is 10 tons of dry matter per hectare (four tons per acre)," said Allan Botica, Pure Power communications advisor. "This occurred during the drought last year." The company predicts that well-managed plantations could yield between eight and 12 dry tons per hectare (three to five tons per acre) per year. Targeted at environmentally sensitive areas, a willow planting can be harvested four years after planting. The trees are coppiced (cut to ground level) and regrow sufficiently for harvest every third year. A planting is expected to yield six or seven harvests before replacement is necessary.