Economic Viability of Woody Bioenergy Cropping for Surface Mine Reclamation
Leveroos, Maura K.
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Planting woody biomass for energy production can be used as a mine reclamation procedure to satisfy the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) and provide renewable energy for the United States. This study examines the economic viability of bioenergy production on previously mined lands using multiple hardwood species and treatments. Five species were planted at two densities; one-half of the trees were fertilized in year two. Height and diameter of the trees were measured annually for five years; the first three years by cooperating researchers at Virginia Tech, the last two years specifically for this report. Current and predicted mass of the species, effects of planting density and fertilizer application, and the land expectation value (LEV) of each treatment were summarized. A sensitivity analysis was conducted to determine how changes in production costs, stumpage price, rotation length, and interest rate affect the economic feasibility of bioenergy production. Renewable energy and mine reclamation policies were investigated and it was determined that woody bioenergy can be planted as a mine reclamation procedure and may receive financial incentives. Production cost appears to have the largest impact on LEV and is often the difference between positive and negative returns for the landowner. The extra cost of fertilization and high density planting do not increase LEV; the unfertilized, low density treatments have the best LEV in all examined scenarios. In general, bioenergy was found to be economically viable as a mine reclamation procedure only in limited circumstances. In low cost, high price scenarios, bioenergy crops could have the potential to reforest both active and abandoned mine lands throughout southern Appalachia.
- Masters Theses