Raffaele Spinelli, Lars Eliasson, Natascia Magagnotti
Forests 2017, 8(12), 503
Acknowledging the absence of up-to-date empirical data on the value retention, service life and annual use of chipping machinery, in 2017 the authors surveyed the records kept by 50 contractors offering biomass chipping services. The machine fleet and operations in this survey could be taken as representative for most of Europe, where the biomass sector is well established and is facing further expansion. Data collection included the whole chipping unit, comprised of chipper, carrier and loader. Manually-fed units were excluded from the survey. The data pointed at a service life up to and exceeding 10,000 h and 10 years, which relieved any concerns about poor durability. Value retention was good, and may exceed that of other mainstream forestry equipment. Engine power was the main explanatory variable in any models to predict purchase price and productivity. The effect of this variable could explain most of the variability (>80%) in the purchase price and productivity data. Results also pointed at the essential equivalence in price and productivity between PTO-driven (i.e., tractor powered) and independent-engine chippers, once differences in engine power are accounted for. However, the distribution of purchase price between different components of the chipping unit was different between the two unit types, with the chipper accounting for a larger proportion of the total investment in independent-engine units. Machine power was also different, with most PTO-driven units being significantly smaller than independent-engine units, due to the limitations of existing tractors. Furthermore, half of the carriers assigned to a PTO-driven unit were subject to flexible use, i.e., they were not solely used for chipping work.