Necessary Negotiations of Bioenergy Development


When it comes to planting trees for bioenergy feedstocks, there are tradeoffs to be made.

As energy sources increasingly shift toward renewables, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that energy production always comes with tradeoffs. Modeling the outcomes of those tradeoffs can help natural resource managers and policymakers create informed decisions in energy development.

Azad Heidari, a civil engineering doctoral candidate at Michigan Technological University, analyzed how biofuel poplar plantations in Wisconsin affect nearby water bodies. Heidari used a watershed model that combines hydrology and plant growth models calibrated to local conditions to investigate tradeoffs between biomass production and impacts on water flow and quality.

Heidari notes that using an interdisciplinary modeling approach allowed the researchers to come to much more holistic conclusions than they otherwise would have.

The work, coauthored by environmental engineers Alex Mayer and David Watkins, was published this summer in the Journal of Hydrology in the article, “Hydrologic impacts and trade-offs associated with forest-based bioenergy development practices in a snow-dominated watershed, Wisconsin, USA.”

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