This is a brief description of studies that exemplify the methods and approaches that have been developed and used by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) researchers in conducting integrated assessments. See the complete list of Integrated Assessment Briefs to find out more about ORNL's efforts in integrated assessment. Contact Mike Farrell ( for more information.

Potential Supply and Cost of Biomass from Energy Crops in the TVA Region

TVA region-wide supply curves for SRWC wood feedstock in units of energy (MBtu) and assuming current yield and 25% increased yield.

Is the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) land base capable of supplying sufficient biomass from energy crops? Would the price of this biomass be sufficient to provide a viable alternative to coal at existing TVA coal-fired power plants?

The study included a 276-county region that included all the TVA service region. The model of energy crop price and supply used in this analysis is based on the assumption that farmer-producers would convert their agricultural land to biomass production when the profit received from producing biomass would meet or exceed their current profit margins received from producing conventional agricultural crops or using their land for pasture.

From this break-even analysis, two biomass supply curves for switchgrass (an herbaceous energy crop) and short rotation woody crops (SRWC) were produced. These curves showed the price that farmers would need to receive for different levels of produced energy crops. County-level maps showed the spatial distribution of quantities of potential energy crops and their prices.

Results showed that current land use patterns, soil quality differences, agricultural and energy crop production costs, and soil-specific yields strongly influenced potential energy crop production distribution, quantities, and prices in this area. Agricultural land in the TVA region could potentially supply 18 gigawatts if wood was the sole fuel and 30 gigawatts if switchgrass was the sole fuel. A farmgate price of $40 to $50 per ton of wood or $35 to $45 per ton for switchgrass would be needed to ensure landowners of profits commensurate with current land use.

Downing, M. and R. L. Graham. 1993. Evaluating a biomass resource: The TVA region-wide biomass resource assessment model. pp. 54-66. In Proceedings of the First Biomass Conference of the Americas, Vol. I. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Co.

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Integrated Assessment Briefs. 1995. ORNL/M-4227. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN.