Have you heard of the term “biomass” before? Do you know what it is, what it does and its uses. If not or not sure, this post is an answer. Biomass is renewable source of energy stored in organic or biological material that comes from plants and animals. It contains energy absorbed from the sun in a process called photosynthesis.
In the plant, that energy is stored in the form of chemical energy. The energy stays trapped in the plant when the plant dies. When the biomass is burned, the chemical energy is released as heat and produces energy. Biomass is then burned directly or converted to liquid biofuels or biogas that can be burned as fuels.
Since it’s the oldest form of energy, people have learned most of its secrets and discovered many examples of biomass. They include agricultural crops, wood, alcoholic fuels and even the simple waste materials. While burning plants, Carbon Dioxide is also released from these plants and returned into the air.
The uses of biomass energy in the world are meant for multiple purposes such as the following:
Biomass energy is also used to generate electricity. Some powerhouses use heat and steam produced by burning wood and wood processing waste materials to generate electricity. They use these waste materials to produce steam to run turbines that generate the electricity. However, most of the powerhouses use fossil fuels (coal).
Waste in garbage is also burned to produce electricity in powerhouses. As you know, bacteria feeds on dead and decaying plants and animals. While dead animals and plants are decaying, they produce methane which is a gas which is odorless, colorless and rich in energy. Addition of heat or burning it produces heat and electricity.
(Biomass fuels were producing about 5% of total primary energy used in the USA in 2017. Therefore, jobs which are supported by the biomass producing industry are more than 66,000, in the US alone.)
The production of electricity from biomass is said to be a promising method in the near future.
By burning solid biomass materials, we gain energy to fuel our homes and industries. The most common example of biomass used is wood. It is the most common used facility which heats in three forms. They include logs or firewood, wood chips and wood pellets. It is mainly for water heating, cooking and washing.
This is the most common and domesticated use of biomass energy in our lives. High productivity home stoves and fireplace areas are very common across the world. When burning various types of waste materials in industries, large furnaces and boilers are used commonly used.
Production of Fuel
Biomass energy is produced through the process of fermentation. Yeast (a bacterium) is added to biomass waste like wood and other agricultural crops to produce an alcohol called ethanol. Ethanol is then used in place of gasoline to power cars. It can also be mixed with gasoline to produce a fuel called gasohol. Animal manure and human sewage is also converted to biogas, which can also be burned as a fuel. Although many and different materials are used, wood is the most common source of fuel. Its popularity is mostly in residential applications, where it’s used for water heating and cooking.
New designs for woodstoves keep popping up and improving the efficiency of the cooking and heating system. Which is decreasing the amount of fuel needed.
Who Uses Biomass and For What Purposes
There are different types of biomass, and it can be used in different form. It can be used in its original fuel form or it can be refined to solid, gaseous or liquid biofuels. And even those other forms can be refined to different kinds.
In the United States, energy from biomass accounts for only 3 percent of the energy it produces. Most of that biomass energy comes from burning wood and the rest of it comes agricultural residues, waste and landfill gases.
The major use of biomass is currently in rural areas and developing countries. And it is mainly used in the form of heat. Almost 90% of all biomass consumption is in the traditional use. Woody bioenergy is the source of over 10% of all energy supplied each year.
Biomass has been found to account for 35% of primary energy consumption in third world countries. In the future, bioenergy has the potential to produce a cost-effective and most importantly, a sustainable supply of energy. At the same time, it will help countries to meet their greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Overall, woody biomass produces and provides almost 90% of the primary energy each year. And it is sourced from all types of biomass. These biomass fuels are used in all the sectors of our society. They are used for generating electricity, for transport, for heating and cooling, and for some industrial processes.
Biomass is mainly used for the production of energy and it’s well accepted and applied by many because of its environmental friendliness. It can be produced from the simple act of utilizing waste materials which are of no use anymore. But they are also produced from agricultural, forestry and municipal wastes.
Biomass fuels are way better than the practice of burning fossil fuels which produce pollutants in return. Fossil fuels produce air pollutants like sulfur which causes acid rain. And the uses of biomass energy are different but some of them can also pollute air if not properly managed.
Biomass releases carbon dioxide into the air, which is necessary for the living plants. Growing trees and plants for biomass is helpful to us and to the environment. They are also produced from crops like sugar, grain and vegetable oils.
There are different types of bioenergy. And there are different uses of biomass in the world. Use it properly. There are many opportunities to come with it. It’s been around since the “cave men” used it to cook and keep themselves warm. Today we use it for fueling our electric generators and more.
Without a doubt, biomass is the future, the past and the present.
Header Image Courtesy: https://www.greenmatch.co.uk