Biomass energy is being with humans since the beginning. In this article you will find a list of ten plus facts for this amazing renewable energy source!
Production of biomass energy
Biomass energy is one of the oldest forms of energy used by humans. Burning wood or other biological materials to produce heat or for cooking needs is one of the initial uses of biomass energy that exist even today.
Biomass is produced from organic materials which are all plants and animals. The most popular and known fuel that is used to produce biomass energy is wood, and its waste byproducts (i.e. sawdust). It can also be produced from animals or their manure, landfill gasses and garbage.
Biomass energy comes essentially from the sun. During the growth process plants store the energy provided by the sun in their roots and leaves. In their turn animals might eat plants to help them grow. The process in which the plants capture the sun’s energy to help them grow is called photosynthesis.
The production of biomass energy even though it causes the release of CO2 mainly and the process is considered carbon neutral (see below section for more details) it also releases at a less significant rate other green house gases such as nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) that do contribute to the accumulation of Green House Gases. Thus biomass energy even though it is a renewable energy source it is not as clean as other RES such as solar and wind energy but it is still a much cleaner alternative to fossil fuels.
Benefits from using biomass energy
Biomass can reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and it can do it in a way that doesn’t burden the environment since the carbon dioxide that is emitted during combustion can be recaptured by replacing the source that was used i.e. replanting a tree in case we used as fuel wood or replace the crop used such as corn etc. Therefore, biomass energy is characterized as carbon neutral. What we should be careful is that we make sure that the consumption rate is of the same order as the replacing in order to maintain the carbon neutrality and avoid for example deforestation which is considered a harmful form of biomass energy.
Biomass biggest advantage is that is sustainable and thus a renewable energy source deriving its energy from biological material. This means that we can produce more biomass fuel (i.e. cultivating specially designed crops) to produce more biomass energy within a short period of time.
Energy Needs Covered and Stats About Biomass
In 2010 4% of the US energy needs were met by biomass. Nearly half of it came from wood and its byproducts. Around 40% came from bio-fuels such as ethanol and about 10% from municipal waste i.e. waste to energy.
In Europe 5% of the continent’s energy needs are achieved with biomass.
Currently, the largest biomass power plant in the USA and in North America is located in Florida South Bay and it’s called the New Hope Power Partnership. It can produce a 140 megawatt by combustion of mainly sugar canes. It also uses recycled urban wood. With its generating capacity it can power approximately 60,000 homes along with serving its own needs for extensive milling. On an annual basis it reduces the US need for oil by approximately a million barrels.
A popular method of producing biomass energy, especially in Europe, is the incineration of Municipal Solid waste (household garbage). Many argue though that this is not a 100% clean biomass energy since MSW are only on average 95% organic and 5% non organic.
The largest biomass power station is located in Finland and is called Alholmens Kraft. Its maximum production ability is 265 MW. In addition it produces heating for the local town of Jakobstad. The plant has a total of 400 employees.
Total global biomass electricity production is almost 50 GW and about 14% of global needs for energy are met with biomass.