Thursday, December 4, 2014

Is Biomass A Valid Green Energy Source?

According to experts, yes it is. In fact, it is one of the three main sources of bioenergy.

But what is bioenergy? Bioenergy is a process by which organic material such as animal waste, plants and wood, etc. are used to generate electricity, produce heat and also aid in the production of biofuels.

Biomass Fuel Supply
Biomass Fuel Supply (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the case of biomass, hot air or water is generated to produce electricity. This is done through direct combustion and is considered the simplest and most common method of generating energy from biomass.

Aside from generating electricity, biomass can be used for hot air production to warm a home or workspace. For this to work, biomass has to be combusted in a furnace where it heats either water or air. Speaking of water, this enables you to have warm water so you can take a shower. In short, biomass in itself can also be used in a small scale as a heating system.

Since you can generate electricity and heat, some people have been able to combine the two which is known as combined heat and power or CHP - which is a very efficient way to generate energy as you can use one energy source for two purposes.

If you are able to compare the amount of electricity generated between biomass and let’s say solar energy, you will notice that biomass produces more because the energy in plants is already captured and stored, and you don’t have to collect it first which is what happens with solar or even wind energy since this is manufactured technology. Biomass energy is readily available unlike the other two which are dependent on the weather.

English: BioEnergy Taufkirchen; combined heat ...
Combined heat and power plant fired with biomass (woodchips from local forest and other) in Taufkirchen near Munich, Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You can even use organic waste to product electricity. No other green energy source can do that, and by using this fuel source properly, governments and municipalities can save money because you don’t have to spend money to dispose of the waste and you will no longer depend as much on foreign oil to power energy plants.

The downside to biomass is that because you have to burn waste and other organic materials to produce power, you add to the pollution which is already in the atmosphere. But this can be offset by planting more crops which help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

You will also have to shell out a lot of money initially for the costs of labor, and the transport and storage of these fuels.

Biomass uses renewable natural resources which is why it is considered a green energy source. This means that we theoretically can have an endless supply of it, just like the power of the sun or the wind which flows from the ocean. The challenge is to find suitable land that has a sufficient water supply so these biomass fuel sources will be able to grow. This means that in areas where water is not that abundant, you cannot rely on biomass technology to generate power. When that happens, you will need to use other means, such as solar, wind, or geothermal energy.

There are lots of ways to generate power without causing harm to the environment. Biomass is just one of many, and it can be a viable option to supplement our fuel needs in some areas.

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