Straw can become an important contributor to the biomass feedstocks of Europe and North America. In Norway, between 12 and 17% of a national target to increase the renewable energy share by 14 TWh can be sustainably met by mobilizing straw feedstocks. However, straw must compete in an energy market with a vast availability of forest-based woody biomass, and a clean electrical energy pool, 95% of which is derived from hydropower. The performance of seven local straw supply chains was monitored over a period of 3 years to estimate straw yields, supply costs, operating costs of the heating plants, and to synthesiz experiences on supply solutions. Storage facilities for bales constituted the largest single cost in the supply chain. Square bales were both more economical to use and required considerably less plant management time, making them more preferable than round bales for small-scale utilization. The total cost of straw firing averaged out in the range of 36–42 € MWh−1, which is 40–46% of the current cost of electric heating (∼90 € MWh−1). The positive economic outcome provides a good incentive to roll out many more similar plants although heat pumps could be expected to reduce the margin in some applications. WIREs Energy Environ 2014, 3:400–407. doi: 10.1002/wene.107

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