Clean Energy Focus:
Biomass is one of the most widely used forms of renewable energy. Biomass is the use of organic materials to produce energy.
Biomass in some form has been used throughout history, like burning wood for fuel, for example.
Whereas fossil fuels are produced by geological processes, a biofuel is made using naturally occurring processes like anaerobic digestion.
What is biomass?
Biomass can be paper, agricultural waste, construction debris, municipal solid wastes, and lumber mill scrap, and they can all produce a large amount of renewable energy.
There are 3 main types of biomass energy that we can use;
- Solid biomass: from burning wood or plant products
- Liquid biomass: such as biodiesel and ethanol
- Gaseous biomass: from methane and landfills
Energy from waste
Creating energy from waste is one of the biggest breakthroughs that has happened in the biomass industry. However, more investment is needed if biomass is going to provide all of the fuel we need for industry and to fuel cars, for example.
Currently, only around 1.4% of the fuel we use is biomass, but with more investment, it has definite potential to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels which are becoming more expensive and running out.
How is energy produced from biomass?
Biomass is incinerated in a furnace, then the heat can be used to boil water and create steam energy, which powers generator and turbines.
Energy can also be created from the decomposition of waste, as the methane gas that occurs naturally is used to provide power for homes and vehicles.
How does biomass help the environment?
The main way that biomass energy is good for the environment is that it is a renewable energy that will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
Because biomass fuel produces steam that turns turbines to produce electricity, this is much greener than the traditional way of producing electricity, which is usually through a form of combustion.
Much of the biomass we use is created through recycling waste, and as well as creating energy, this preserves energy and raw materials from the original products to produce something we can use.
Currently, ethanol made from corn and other similar biofuels are being looked at as a means of reducing emissions from vehicles, and reducing our reliance on oil.
The pros and cons of biomass energy
Biomass is a sustainable fuel
Most biomass is produced from the recycling of materials or from their natural decomposition. Waste decomposes and produces methane gas, which is pumped into power plants to produce energy.
Biomass energy is fairly cheap
Using wood and other biomass products to produce steam to turbines is simple and cheap.
There’s just not enough
One of the main disadvantages of biomass energy is that there is not enough. The demand for energy globally is so high and biomass can only provide a small percentage of it.
It still produces greenhouse gases
Biomass energy still produces greenhouse gases albeit in much smaller amounts than traditional fuel sources.