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Willows produce green energy

The former Allied Chemical waste beds in Camillus are the site of a new innovative project to return the Solvay settling basin to productive use. SUNY ESF and Honeywell are working together to harvest shrub willows, in order to produce sustainable green energy.

On Jan. 31 Camillus Town Supervisor Mary Ann Coogan, Third Ward Councilor Bill Davern and other officials toured the shrub willow site.

"The town of Camillus is excited to be home to this important and innovative project that if it continues to be successful will provide long-term benefits both to the community and the environment," Coogan said.

On that day ESF staff cut down and began harvesting one-acre area of shrub willows on Solvay Settling Basin No. 13 in Camillus. The shrubs were the first of the willows planted in 2004. Honeywell and SUNY ESF currently have 72 plots in the area. Many varieties of shrub willows have been tested at SUNY ESF. The 10 best are being tested at the waste beds, over 35,000 willows have been planted.

"We here at ESF are very pleased to have the opportunity to work with Honeywell on this innovative and sustainable biomass project," said SUNY ESF President Cornelius Murphy Jr. "We also want to recognize Congressman Jim Walsh for his long-standing efforts in supporting our biomass research and demonstration program."

Workers weighed the trees and then fed them into a large chipper as scientists, Honeywell International officials and Camillus town representatives looked on. From Camillus, the wood chips will be sent to Lyonsdale Biomass, a 19-megawatt power plant in Lewis County that converts lumber into electricity for the power grid. In the future, they also could be used to power the proposed alternative-fuel plant Siemens Corp. wants to build in Syracuse. While the oldest willows become energy, thousands more will continue to grow in the waste beds, helping to filter pollution from groundwater and ultimately growing tall enough to become woody biomass themselves. Sugars will be taken out of the chips to produce ethanol.

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