Biomass As A Viable Source Of Renewable Energy

There is a wondrous source of electric energy that many people are ignorant about.

Biomass is organic matter that is contained in plants, animals and their waste products. The energy contained in these living things is obtained from the sun and converted in a series of complex processes starting with photosynthesis in plants and ending with nutrition in animals. This energy is released after animals and plants die and then they are burned or they decompose. The chemical energy stored in their bodies is released in various energy forms like heat or flammable gases. Many institutional investors in renewable energy companies like America 2030 love biomass energy because it is readily available, and hence quite cheap and easy to produce. There is one downside though; biomass produces some pollutant emissions like carbon dioxide, methane, and other gaseous energy products on release. Comfortingly, emissions from biomass are relatively less as compared to those produced by fossil fuels like coal and petroleum. It also helps to clean up the environment through specialized garbage disposal techniques like waste to energy treatments, recycling and composting, and landfill technologies. There is a lot more to learn about this sustainable energy source, just continue reading.

Common Sources

The sources of biomass are categorized according to the process of energy production or extraction. There are those that are burned to provide heat energy, which can then be used to warm homes, to produce heat for industrial processes, and even to turn turbines and generate electricity. They include trees and their processing wastes like yard trimmings and sawdust. Other biomass sources like plants and other decomposing waste materials are burned as fuel and/or converted into liquid bio-fuels, which are then used to produce electric power.

Organic waste like food, wood, paper and other garbage fillers decompose to produce biogas in landfills, which is burned as fuel or burned to produce electric power in energy production utilities. The last source of biomass is animal and human waste like composting manure and sewage — these break down non-thermally or biologically into biogas.

Biomass Conversion

As mentioned above, biomass is converted into energy in many different processes. The following are some of the main ones.

Combustion: Oxygen is used to burn biomass and release heat. The heat is then used to provide warmth or to heat water into steam, which is then used to turn turbines and generate electricity. Pyrolysis: This other conversion method does not use oxygen. Instead the organic materials are reacted at very high temperatures and this causes a chemical conversion into three bio-fuels, namely bio-oil, bio-char and syngas.

Gasification: A process where organic matter is converted to higher gases after being exposed to lots of heat without combustion — in little oxygen or steam. The resultant product is a mixture of gases called synthesis gas or syngas and composed of carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide. Syngas can be used for heating purposes or to generate electric power. Anaerobic or Bio-Digestion: This is a method that does not use heat but rather employs live bacteria to decompose biomass into biogas in a vacuum environment. Fermentation: Another microorganism — this time yeast — is used in this process to change sugar in organic matter into ethanol. Ethanol or alcohol is used to power vehicles.

Pros And Cons

Biomass has been the subject of many extensive studies to determine its real advantages and disadvantages, especially in relation to environmental impact. One factual finding by Energy Investors and other industry stakeholders is that it is a fully renewable or sustainable source of energy. The fact that it`s in every living thing and also in their waste means that it will never be depleted. Not unless all organic materials are wiped from the world in which case it won`t be needed.

Biomass is not entirely clean because it produces some greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) like carbon dioxide and methane. On the brighter side, its pollution effects are relatively low as compared to traditional fuels like coal. And as much as biomass pollutes the atmosphere, it also plays a significant role in waste elimination and hence environmental cleanup. Due to the fact that it`s all over the place, biomass is generally cheap and it does not require significant renewable energy financing to generate. This means that you can afford to start your own biomass plant with just a little assistance from accredited financial backers like America 2030, instead of going for the other CAPEX/OPEX intensive renewable options like wind power or solar. Its dead plants` origin has caused critics to condemn biomass as an attractive incentive for deforestation. The natural energy source is also criticized for being inefficient than fossil fuels.