Biomass Energy Facts

This page features some interesting biomass energy facts that you may or may not know. Although the term "biomass renewable energy" sounds green and modern and high-tech, the world has been using this energy source for thousands of years to heat their homes and cook their foods.

"Biomass" simply refers to biological material that's either living or recently dead. Though fossil fuels could technically be considered biomass, their original material has been dead so long that it's structure has been altered. So, let's see what it really is and how it can work alongside solar energy.


History's Renewable Energy Source

When referring to biomass alternative energy in the renewable sense, we're essentially thinking of plant matter. Wood burning is maybe the most common example of biomass energy that everyone's familiar with.

Up until the 1950s, wood was the primary heating source in most rural areas of Canada and the United States. It was plentiful and if you owned your own woodlot, it was cheap.

Many people still heat their homes with wood today using the newer, more efficient wood stoves that are friendlier to the environment. Such stoves work well to supplement solar generated electricity for heating and cooking needs.

Wood pellet stoves that burn pellets manufactured from wood waste have become popular, along with corn stoves that burn shelled corn as a dry granular fuel.

Biomass Renewable Energy Wood PelletsBiomass Renewable Energy Wood Pellets
(Source: ©iStockphoto.com/Berca)

Since biomass is essentially plant matter, it is considered renewable because you can simply plant more of the trees or corn or whatever biological material you're harvesting as your fuel source. By using these fuel resources in a responsible manner, you would never run out of your fuel supply.

There is one drawback to biomass alternative energy, though. Because biomass is part of the carbon cycle, burning it releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air and atmosphere. However, through responsible use, it can be a "carbon neutral fuel" since all living plants absorb CO2.

So, simply by planting as many new plants (trees, corn, and so on) as you are burning, you'll have a neutral effect when it comes to carbon dioxide. Growing energy crops has become the new cash crop for farmers and are carbon neutralizing too.

Biomass Ethanol and Methane Production

Though "biomass" usually brings to mind plants, it can be anything of a biological nature. Animal matter and even some types of solid waste materials and garbage could be considered biomass. Nor does it have to be burnt. You wouldn't want to burn waste animal matter in your family room fireplace! Usable energy can be also released by converting it into methane or ethanol at biomass energy plants.

This can even help to prevent the buildup of greenhouse gases since methane gas that's released in landfills and cattle feed lots has twenty-one times the global warming potential compared to carbon dioxide. Therefore, by containing methane producing biomass and using it to produce useful energy, we can reduce harmful greenhouse gases that directly contribute to global warming.

Summary of Biomass Energy Facts

One big advantage that biomass has over other types of renewable energy is that it's quite versatile. Unlike wind power or passive solar energy, which can only be used as it's generated or stored as electricity in batteries, it can be converted into a gas for heating houses, a liquid for fueling vehicles, or even a solid briquette for use in family barbeques. And as a gas, liquid, or solid, it can easily be stored.

The biomass energy facts are clear. As fossil fuel supplies diminish, you are certain to hear more about research being done on how to best harness biomass renewable energy to reduce our carbon footprint and provide clean affordable energy.

Click Here for Information about Other Types of Renewable Energy




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