There are so many renewable energy resources, each of one unique and useful in its own way. Some of them require the ingenuity of those who use them and others simply need you to observe the leverage in something others have discarded and transforming it in power.
One of these resources is biomass.
What is biomass?
Biomass is the amount of living matter produced in a certain area of the Earth’s surface or by a specific type of organisms. When we talk about biomass we refer to a fuel produced directly or indirectly by biological resources. Biomass is the term used for all organic material originating from plants or animals and we could say that it is nature’s storage of solar energy through photosynthesis.
Technically, biomass is also the source of fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal) but they take millions of years to form and become toxic when they are burned. So, the solution was simple and obvious: we should use the biomass before becoming toxic and when it can still produce energy, named bioenergy.
How can biomass transform into energy?
Although it can be used in many ways and it has many different sources (animal or vegetal), nowadays the only type of biomass used to produce energy is forest biomass (or woody biomass). The conversion is made through thermo-chemical processes (combustion and pyrolysis) or biological processes (fermentation). In the following diagram, we can see better the process of converting biomass to energy:
5 important facts about bioenergy:
- Bioenergy is a renewable energy – its many sources (plants, woods, organic material coming from animals) are constantly growing and renewing on Earth. Also because biomass doesn’t take millions of years to form is easier to use and to restore the source (by planting trees or cultivating crops).
- Bioenergy is a clean energy – burning biomass does release gas emissions but it operates in a closed carbon cycle and therefore creates little greenhouse effect. The cycle imitates the natural carbon cycle.
- Bioenergy does not threaten native forests – It is estimated that there is enough biomass from forest industry activities (using saw dust, bark etc) so it is not necessary to cut down native forests. And where cutting trees is needed, they should be replaced with new and younger ones.
- Bioenergy is storable – unlike other renewable resources (solar, wind and hydro power) bioenergy is stored and it can be used when needed.
- Bioenergy encourages rural development – growing so-called energy crops, harvesting woody biomass or helping out in the installations of a power plant: these all mean many new jobs and real possibilities of development in rural and not-so-wealthy areas of a country. So, bioenergy could become another way in which, by helping the planet people help themselves too.