This study focuses on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants using willow as fuel compared to those using fossil fuels. More specifically, we quantify emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) from soils on which willow is grown, and compare these to emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuel-based power plants. The results indicate that use of willow for producing electricity instead of fossil fuels is often, but not always more environmentally friendly. This is because the soil emissions of N2O may be lower or higher than the avoided emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from coal or natural gas-fired plants, depending on the way the willow is grown. Emissions may be higher in case willow is grown under specific field conditions reflecting high fertiliser use on organic soils, relatively long rotations and low yields. We performed a scenario analysis that compares soil emissions of N2O to fossil fuel (combustion) related CO2 emissions for power generation in Portugal and The Netherlands. Scenarios for the year 2010 indicate that greenhouse gas emissions from power plants may increase by up to 15-20% relative to baseline trends, in case willow use is increased to 20% of the total fuel use in power generation. In case willow is grown under relatively favourable conditions, these greenhouse gas emissions may be at least 20% lower than the baseline.
- global n2o budget
- environmental impacts