Biomass is organic matter from plants and animals (microorganisms). Photosynthesis is the name process that stores the energy from sunlight in plants. Animals get this energy through eating the plants. Waste such as crops, manure and garbage are all excellent sources of biomass fuel.
Biomass has a wide array of uses such as directly as heat or to generate electricity with a steam turbine. Biomass can also be used to make methane gas, biodiesel and other biofuels. What are the pros and cons of biomass energy?
Advantages of Biomass Energy
We will always have the sources of biomass such as crops, manure and garbage. As you convert this year’s crop to fuel, you are growing another one for next years fuel. Renewing takes just as long time as it takes to grow or gather, and that can be as little as months in some cases.
2. Carbon Neutral
This is maybe most important of the advantages of biomass energy. Biomass is a part of the carbon cycle. Carbon from the atmosphere is absorbed into plants during photosynthesis and when the plant decays or is burnt that carbon goes back into the atmosphere. Because it is a cycle, the next crop of plants absorb that carbon over again, so there is a balance between the amount of carbon that the biomass fuel release into the atmosphere and the amount that they extract from it. This is why biomass fuels do not contribute to global warming. Biomass fuels are clean.
Energy harnessed from biomass is inexpensive compared to coal and oil. Typically they cost about 1/3 less than fossil fuels doing the same job. This means you can spend 1/3 less every year on heating your home and after 10 or 15 years that adds up to a considerable saving
Biomass is available in large quantities all over the world. Large pipelines across country borders and oceans are therefore most likely not necessary.
Disadvantages of Biomass Energy
Extraction of biomasses can be expensive. In some areas we find that biomass projects may not be worth the price and is therefore never finished. This is also true for the harvesting and storing of the different types of biomass.
2. Requires Space
We need big areas for all the different processes that are required in harnessing energy from biomass. The areas that are needed for storing can be particular large.
There is no doubt that biomass energy is one of the few potential replacements for fossil fuels. The benefits of both a renewable and clean energy source cannot be overlooked. It will be interesting to see how big of a part biomass energy will play in the future.
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Last Update: 16 October 2012