Humans have been using biomass energy since man first learned to make fire to keep warm and cook food.
Biomass energy is simply energy that is derived from plants, such as wood or algae.
Believe it or not, wood is actually still the most common biomass renewable energy used in the world.
But, it certainly is not the only one. Many advanced methods have been developed over the years that allow us to use food crops, grassy and woody plants, residues from agriculture and forestry.
But that’s not all folks!
We also have learned to harness algae as a biofuel source, and the organic components of municipal and industrial waste.
That includes the stinky fumes from landfills!
Biomass is used for many practical applications, including:
Biomass Reduces Greenhouse Emissions
Biomass energy is considered an excellent method of reducing greenhouse gasses.
It is true that biomass energy releases about the same amount of carbon dioxide as fossil fuels.
But, fossil fuels release ancient carbon dioxide that was captured by photosynthesis millions of years ago, which makes it a “new” greenhouse gas.
The good news about biomass renewable energy is that the carbon dioxide released is neutralized by the carbon dioxide captured during the growth of the plant used, and any new plants that are put in its place.
But, recent studies have found that clearing forests to grow biomass results in a “carbon debt” that could take decades to pay back.
So it is best to use biomass that was grown on previously cleared land, like farms.
Biomass Lowers Oil Dependance and Helps Agriculture
Biomass energy also greatly reduces our dependence on foreign oil since biofuels are the ONLY renewable transportation liquid.
Biomass energy also supports U.S. agricultural and forest-product industries.
The main biomass feedstock for power is paper mill residue, lumber mill scrap, and municipal waste.
For biomass fuels, the most common feedstocks used are corn grain (for ethanol) and soybeans (for biodiesel).
In the near future agricultural residues such as corn stover (the stalks, leaves, and husks of the plant) and wheat straw will also be used.
Long-term plans include growing and using dedicated energy crops, such as fast-growing trees and grasses, and algae.
These feed stocks can grow sustainably on land that will not support intensive food crops.
But, we still have a ways to go before biomass energy breaks out onto the mainstream scene.
So get excited, get the word out about biomass renewable energy!