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International Journal of Forestry Research
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 106474, 11 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/106474
Research Article

A Spatial Index for Identifying Opportunity Zones for Woody Cellulosic Conversion Facilities

1Center for Renewable Carbon, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-4570, USA
2USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station, 2506 Jacob Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996-4570, USA

Received 10 July 2012; Revised 26 September 2012; Accepted 10 October 2012

Academic Editor: John Stanturf

Copyright © 2012 Xia Huang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

A challenge in the development of renewable energy is the ability to spatially assess the risk of feedstock supply to conversion facilities. Policy makers and investors need improved methods to identify the interactions associated with landscape features, socioeconomic conditions, and ownership patterns, and the influence these variables have on the geographic location of potential conversion facilities. This study estimated opportunity zones for woody cellulosic feedstocks based on landscape suitability and market competition for the resource. The study covered 13 Southern States which was a segment of a broader study that covered 33 Eastern United States which also included agricultural biomass. All spatial data were organized at the 5-digit zip code tabulation area (ZCTA). A landscape index was developed using factors such as forest land cover area, net forest growth, ownership type, population density, median family income, and farm income. A competition index was developed based on the annual growth-to-removal ratio and capacities of existing woody cellulosic conversion facilities. Combining the indices resulted in the identification of 592 ZCTAs that were considered highly desirable zones for woody cellulosic conversion facilities. These highly desirable zones were located in Central Mississippi, Northern Arkansas, South central Alabama, Southwest Georgia, Southeast Oklahoma, Southwest Kentucky, and Northwest Tennessee.