- Author: Gareth J Mayhead
The Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at UC Davis recently completed an assessment of the available technologies for forest biomass harvesting which could be appropriate for use in the Sierra Nevada. The work was funded by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE). The aim of was to lower the net cost of reducing fire danger in forested areas of the central Sierra Nevada and improve the feasibility of utilizing removed biomass for useful energy
The report assessed equipment such as the John Deere 1490D Slash Bundler
The report is available in PDF format on the California Biomass Collaborative website here. There is also a page which has a compilation of videos of the various types of equipment in use. This is a great resource to help people understand the complex range of in woods equipment that is now available.
Much of the new equipment combines tasks in an attempt to become more efficient when compared to traditional single task machines (for example a feller, forwarder, skidder, processor or chipper). Other new pieces of equipment are single task, for example a slash bundler, but they aim to make forest biomass operations more efficient.
This Silvatech 878 CH chipper-forwarder collects slash and chips it in the forest prior to unloading into a truck at a landing
Most of this equipment is very expensive and the output product (usually chip) has a low value compared to traditional forest products (such as saw logs). The equipment is also highly specialised making it difficult to use for other tasks. Additonally much of the equipment is designed to work with cut to length systems rather than whole tree harvesting systems as practiced in California.
The report outlines the fundamental principles of efficiency for mechanised forestry operations and contains significant analysis on the operational costs of different systems. It concludes with recomendations to utilize existing equipment in the Sierra Nevada and also suggests modifications and new equipment ideas that could be applicable to the area.