Energy balance of SRC willow used for managing farmyard washings - how does it compare to a conventional wastewater treatment works?

Beatrice Smyth, Tony Fearon, Rodrigo Olave, Chris Johnston, Greg Forbes

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The water and wastewater industry in the UK accounts for around 3% of total energy use and just over 1% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions. Targets for greenhouse gas emissions reduction and higher renewable energy penetration, coupled with rising energy costs, growing demand for wastewater services and tightening EU water quality requirements, have led to an increased interest in alternative wastewater treatment methods. The use of short rotation coppice (SRC) willow for the treatment of wastewater effluent is one such alternative, which brings with it the dual benefits of wastewater treatment and production of biomass for energy. In order to assess the effectiveness of SRC willow, it is important to analyse the overall energy balance in terms of energy input versus energy output. This paper carries out an energy life cycle analysis of a specific SRC willow plantation in Northern Ireland to which farmyard washings (dirty water) are applied. The system boundaries include the establishment, maintenance, and harvesting of the plantation, along with the transport and drying of the wood for biomass combustion. The analysis shows that the overall energy balance is positive, and that the direct and indirect energy demands are 12% and 8% of gross energy production respectively. The energy demands of the plantation are compared with the energy required to treat an equivalent nutrient load in a conventional wastewater treatment plant. While a conventional plant consumes 2.6 MJ/m3 , the irrigation system consumes 1.6 MJ/m3 and the net energy production of the scenario is 48 MJ/m3 .
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sep 2014
EventWater Efficiency Conference 2014 - Huxley Building, University of Brighton, Brighton, United Kingdom
Duration: 09 Sep 201411 Sep 2014


ConferenceWater Efficiency Conference 2014
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


Dive into the research topics of 'Energy balance of SRC willow used for managing farmyard washings - how does it compare to a conventional wastewater treatment works?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this