What is biomass? It’s essentially all of the plants and animals that are on the planet today. Some might even consider human beings as being biomass. Anything that is alive is considered biomass, but so is anything that was alive recently. It’s life that receives energy from the sun and when it is used to create energy, it is a very renewable resources. After all, we can always grow some more plants.
1. A Greenhouse Without the Roof
Biomass energy naturally releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. That might be considered a bad thing since high carbon dioxide levels are thought to be a primary cause of the global warming that is occurring. In reality, however, the use of biomass for energy is a net zero proposition. The plants that are used to create biomass energy have already captured carbon dioxide and processed it. By burning the biomass, the carbon dioxide they captured is simply returned back into the atmosphere so more plants can use it.
2. A Waste Eliminator
One of the reasons why biomass is such an attractive source of energy is because there is so much of it in the world today. Many biomass products are used to build homes, furniture, and other needed items. There are always scraps leftover from these projects and in the past, this meant having landfills filled with these products. Now that we know they can be burned to create energy, electricity, and other forms of renewable fuel, those scraps can be used efficiently as a resource for energy that we normally wouldn’t have.
3. Smell the Power
It isn’t just leftover trees that are used to create biomass energy. Many communities are using trash burning facilities to create electricity and other forms of energy as well. The current output of biomass energy in the United States right now is enough to provide electricity to over 1 million homes. Recycling is a good thing, as is composting, but waste to power also has some unique advantages that really shouldn’t be ignored.
4. Who Needs Oil?
The largest biomass power plant in the United States is able to product enough power for about 60,000 homes. It primarily uses sugar cane as a power source, but also uses wood scraps that come from the surrounding urban environment. This power plant is large enough to serve its own milling needs and ultimately produces 140 MW of power. In practical terms, it means that this one plant is able to reduce the American need for imported oil by about 1 million barrels per year. When the entire industry is taken as a whole, that figure becomes more like 20 million barrels of oil per year.
5. Snuggle Up
For homes that are running on wood stoves or pellet stoves for their heating needs, then what they’re really doing is taking advantage of modern biomass energy production. The same has been true throughout history with the use of a fireplace or even just a campfire at night. Whenever biomass is consumed to create energy, then it is being used to create energy. Electricity is just one form of biomass energy. Gas, heat, and other forms are very popular in the world today as well.
6. Breathe In the Methane
One of the fastest expanding uses of biomass is in the creation of biogas. If you’ve ever visited a dairy farm, then there are two things that you will always see: cows being milked and cows creating manure. That manure is actually waste that produces gas, which in turn can be used to create electricity. The key to this process is the methane that is created from animal waste products. The manure is collected, methane is released from its storage, and this gas is then burned off to heat water through steam generation. That steam turns a generator turbine and that’s how electricity is created.
7. It Was Once a World Leader
In the United States today, biomass energy accounts for about 4% of the total energy that is consumed every year. In Europe, it’s slightly higher at 5%. What many people do not realize, however, is that only a few generations ago, biomass energy was the main form of energy that was used to create electricity and heat. If it isn’t being used to create power, it can be sold to create fuel. If it isn’t being used for fuel, it can be used to filter carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and look pretty while doing it. In all circumstances, biomass wins.
8. A Fossil Fuel Saver
It may be as many as 120 years from now, but scientists estimate that fossil fuels are going to run out one day. When that day happens, the world will need to have transitioned to new forms of energy production to maintain the modern lifestyle. This is where biomass energy can be the real life saver. It is incredibly versatile and can be used to replace a majority of the gasoline that is produce from oil. E-85 fuel, in fact, is just 15% gasoline. Compare that to the E-10 fuel that is generally sold which is 90% gasoline and it is easy to see how fast biomass energy can change the world.
9. The Ultimate Recycling Machine
Tons of biomass are recycled every day so that it can be converted into electricity or other forms of fuel. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa a company is recycling 150 tons of biomass every day in order to create enough electricity to power about 4,000 homes. These are tons of materials that would normally sit in local landfills and are instead being turned into something that everyone finds to be profitable. That’s a win/win situation.
Biomass production is not always welcomed in a community because the odors generated can be rather unique. From an energy perspective, however, it is difficult to find an energy source that is as renewable as biomass energy. Maybe that’s why we’ve used it since the beginning of time itself.