Woody Biomass Economic Availability Study
The purpose of this study is to propose a spatial model that can be used as a tool for making decisions regarding the proper sizing of woody biomass projects that require allocating public and private money and resources. This spatial model determines the cost for sustainably extracting and transporting woody biomass from watersheds in Colorado to a specific location. The model uses current costs, in dollars, and conditions to determine the economic viability of woody biomass extraction.
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This paper presents a relatively simple spatial model for evaluating the supply of woody biomass and sustainability of that supply for areas in Colorado. The assumptions that have been used are partially based on experience with harvesting beetle-killed lodgepole pine in the Colorado Mountains. The assumptions can be modified relatively easily, however it appears that the initial assumptions have produced a reasonable result for the example that was used to test the model.
This methodology provides results that estimate the maximum economic availability of woody biomass. The feasibility of achieving that amount of supply to a given location would be subject to other limitations including; social, infrastructure, industrial and capital capacity, and market factors. An example of an infrastructure limitation would be where there is a need for additional roads in the forest to economically transport the biomass out of those areas. Another example of limitations would be where a community may not support the level of truck traffic and the infrastructure (roads) would not support that level of traffic either.
In the Colorado Springs example, the spatial model shows a total of 17,407,998 tons available for delivery to Colorado Springs, at an average cost of $49/ton or less (in 2009 dollars). Applying the 3 percent sustainability factor, the yearly tonnage available is 522,240 tons (Table 1). At an average cost of $35/ton or less the yearly tonnage available is 111,429 tons (Table 2). Further data refinement is necessary and advised to more precisely determine an economical sustainable supply for specific woody biomass facilities in the Colorado Springs area.