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Hughesville school harvests 1st biomass crop

January 30, 2014

HUGHESVILLE — On a frigid January morning, East Lycoming School District Business Manager Dave Maciejewski stood next to a 40-acre field of shrub willow and explained why he had asked the district t......

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Jan-30-14 9:15 PM

"Texas, it looks like you took a hard hit on this one. Time to get out of the fossil fuel business." --Rick424


Rickie, I could have a 100 disagrees and 0 agrees and it doesn't bother me personally.

You missed my point. In order to effectively evaluate the use of the willow as an alternative fuel, one needs to consider all the things that it takes to grow and convert it into fuel. It would be a great project for some jr or sr science, physics, chemistry students to quantify all the impacts that I mentioned and report the results.

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Jan-30-14 8:27 PM


You would have lost your bet. Instead of watching Hannity, O'Reilly, Sustern and Smith, I watch the bachelor, runway and shark tank with my wife.

Just so you know I received my degree in chemical engineering and one of the things that was emphasized in college and later on the job was to perform a material and energy balance around a process. Count all the molecules going in and all the molecules going out. In my series of questions that is what I was trying to establish to adequately evaluate the true performance of the willow.

If I lose credibility in your eyes for misspelling a word, well you are fixing your focus on the wrong thing. PS, you can capitalize the words in the first paragraph.

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Jan-30-14 2:36 PM

Texas, it looks like you took a hard hit on this one. Time to get out of the fossil fuel business. Good comments for a change on this article.

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Jan-30-14 1:03 PM

Coffee, I stand corrected, it's 40, not 13 acres. Sorry. But I do know the poplar thing never worked out, and maybe this won't work out, but if you don't experiment with things like this, your just sticking your head in the sand. Fossil fuels will run out. If we don't start looking for ways to replace them, future generations are going to have very little nice things to say about us.

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Jan-30-14 12:58 PM

The school district is saving taxpayers money and people are complaining? I don't get it.

Someone spoke about the worth of the land. Before I consider that statement, is the 40 acres part of the flood plain?

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Jan-30-14 12:25 PM

Let's give credit where it is due. Overall I am pretty happy when I see what I am paying in taxes for the quality of the schools at East Lycoming. The Business Manager obviously has a lot to do with that. He's trying new things and getting outside funds to pay for a lot of it.

I would be willing to bet that he knows exactly the cost of the entire process. Besides, there is also an educational value to many of the energy projects that they have been doing.

Give the guy credit. He is trying and has the best interest of the taxpayers in mind. That's more than I can say about most of the officials in the nation.

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Jan-30-14 11:48 AM

Willow is used because it resprouts from the stump producing fast growing multiple shoots also by replanting some of these shoots you can have a continuous harvest of firewood to make chips for the next 20 to 40 years that is 90% clean burning with little ash.

Willow farms are a new growing industry so the demand for chips can be fulfilled.

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Jan-30-14 10:41 AM

Lets do the math, take a 40 acre field that produces around 200 tons of wood chips per year. Wood chips are being purchased at $37 per ton, that equates to $185 worth of wood chips per acre per year. Now forgetting any other expenses associated with this pet project, determine if the school district’s business manager is really doing the taxpayer a service. Is this the best use of the land for the taxpayer? Admittedly I am not a farmer but I would think that 40 acres of pumpkins could produce similar if not greater financial benefit to the school district!

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Jan-30-14 9:32 AM

They are not "growing 200 tons per 13 acres per year", it takes 4 years for those 13 acres to produce 200 tons!

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Jan-30-14 9:04 AM

Farmer, they were doing that in the 1970's with hybrid poplar. You don't need to have a school district burning wood to find out how many tons of wood can be produced per acre.

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Jan-30-14 8:57 AM

coffee: Yea, burning wood for heat is something new!

No Coffee, burning wood for heat is not new, but growing 200 tons of wood per 13 acres per year is something new.

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Jan-30-14 8:40 AM

Yea, burning wood for heat is something new!

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Jan-30-14 8:39 AM

I like this, someone thinking outside the box. It's completely fine imo to have questions about it, to want to know more about it. But I see no harm in heavily considering this as an option. Obviously there will be some cost that comes along with it but ultimately how much more cost does it reduce? If the answer to that question is "a lot", then I think it's plenty worth it.

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Jan-30-14 8:27 AM

I'm sure glad men like Karl Benz and Henry Ford didn't have your attitudes about new innovations, we'd all still be riding around in buggies.

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Jan-30-14 8:21 AM

ToTEXASfromPA, First of all I think you missed the point about it being renewable and second it's a good start in the right direction, the right direction also meaning 10 to 20 years and beyond not next year or the year after. Like it or not renewables are the future. Renewable energy is where the smart money will go. Just as whaling for oil came to an end so will drilling for it (coal and natural gas also). Don't fool yourself into thinking it wouldn't come to pass, renewables are not a fad.

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Jan-30-14 8:05 AM

Also don't forget the cost of the land to grow the trees and possibly the mowing of the area around the trees.

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Jan-30-14 7:50 AM

They grow quickly as does bamboo,but cant wait to see my tax bill go down!!

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Jan-30-14 6:39 AM


I bet you watch a lot of Fox News. And you completely lost all credibility with your very first sentence when you misspelled the word "its."

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Jan-30-14 5:42 AM

Neat concept but it doesn't sound like all the measures are in place to precisely and completely monitor it's effectiveness.

As trees are continually harvested every four or five years, does it deplete the soil of nutrients and is new fertilizer applied?

Do the trees need to be replanted after they are harvested?

How much and what type of fuels and emissions are generated through the planting, harvesting, transportation, conversion to fuel, and consumption as fuel processes?

What are the life cycle costs of equipment capital costs and repair?

How many people are used throughout and what are their hours and costs?

Are backup fuel sources (ie natural gas, electricity, or fuel oil) still required?

If would be nice if the business manager does a complete material and energy balance around the entire process to understand the full pros/cons and cost/benefits. That would be good to know.

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