making a market for albizia: new lessons from a taroist

albizia tree, invasive or valuable biomass?

Bill Cowern was recently on KKCR's talk show describing his company's plans to supply 10% of Kauai's future energy from the biomass of chipped trees.

Cowern's favorite tree? Albizia. You know, that runaway 'invasive' now found all over the islands.

Why Albizia? It grows fast and, when intermixed with other trees Cowern is growing, it provides enough nitrogen and other nutrients that has dramatically cut the need for commercial fertilizers by 95 percent.

Still, Albizia has achieved a kind of notoriety, exemplifying good intentions run amok, and complicating Cowern's plans for expanded tree plantings.

Never mind that this 'invasive' tree is, by now, what Cowern calls a "naturalized occupant".

Either way, we might look for ways to minimize its further spread and capitalize on its presence.

So, says Cowern, let's create a market for albizia, by paying good money to anyone who chops down one of these trees...As in, purchasing albizia for input to one of Kauai's planned biomass energy plants.

IMHO, this is a brilliant strategy, and it illustrates the important learning we can derive from the actions of those I call 'taroists' Bill Cowern.

A taroist sees something that needs to be done on our island, and finds a way to do get it done.

Cowern has tho't long and hard about biomass, energy, tech, and Kauai soils. He has looked at lots of different trees. And, IMHO, it's totally fantastic that he's settled on one we already have plenty (some will say, too many) of.

This much seems certain: we could support a market for albizia far into the future...and green our electricity at the same time.

A hybrid approach that removes existing albizia and also mixes new trees in an energy farm makes a lot of sense.

I can't think of a good reason why Cowern shouldn't be incentivized to plough forward with his hybrid tree farm.

...Now, if we could only make a market for cat's claw (heh)... speaking of Kauai 'invasives' that have become 'naturalized' occupants.

Published by Ken on September 30th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Island Vulnerabilities

2 Responses to “making a market for albizia: new lessons from a taroist”

  1. fastgrowingtrees Says:

    Converting ‘invasive plants’ into biomass is one way in which you can do your bit to save the planet. A lot of
    home-owners and gardeners find creepers and even big trees like the Paulownia to be invasive. Biomass could very well be a solution for controlling plants that seem to be all over the place.

  2. Jeff Goddin Says:

    Cat's claw, or uña de gato as I know it, is used for medicinal extracts, bark, root, and leaves. I worked with a pharmaceutical company in Quito, Ecuador, putting them in touch with folks I knew on the coast who could get them a reliable supply. He paid $6/kg and it was well worth the effort there.