Our need for natural resources has greatly increased over time. There is such a high demand for resources such as diesel, gasoline, coal and natural gas – just to name a few. However, all of these resources are non-renewable. In short, we will run out of them eventually. Not only that, these resources also contribute to air pollution as well as water pollution.
We currently live in a world that is experiencing the consequences of our actions, particularly concerning the environment. The continued deterioration of our world has prompted action and this comes in the form of using alternative sources of energy such as solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, nuclear and biomass energy.
While the term biomass may sound fancy, it’s a word used to describe the material from plants and animals. Biomass can be burned in order to produce energy. A good example of it is wood. Biomass is used to produce electricity and some kinds can even be converted into liquid fuels that can be used to power different kinds of vehicles. While there are certain benefits to using biomass for energy, what are its advantages and disadvantages like?
List of Advantages of Biomass
1. It is a renewable source of energy.
A lot of organic and agricultural wastes are generated each day. Biomass can be produced from these wastes. As such, biomass is a resource that is readily available and virtually inexhaustible. Biomass energy generates power using renewable assets which come from sources such as wood waste, tree buildup, urban waste and handled wood pellets.
2. Its carbon content is part of the source.
Burning coal or gas releases carbon into the atmosphere. On the other hand, biomass sources already have carbon present in them. Plants, for instance, already have energy stored in them. They absorb energy from the sun through photosynthesis. The stored energy is then released as heat when biomass is burned.
Carbon dioxide is released when biomass is burned. Plants, however, also make use of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in order to grow. The carbon dioxide they take is returned to the air when the plants are burned.
3. It lessens dependence on fossil fuels.
Biomass has the capability to replace all other sources of fuel. Since it relies on natural materials to generate power, there will be less reliance on energy created by assets that are non-renewable such as coal and gas. The use of renewable energy resources is good for the planet as well.
4. It is widely available.
The concept behind biomass is turning trash into energy. We produce lots of trash each day and how great would it be if we can harness this to produce something good? It’s possible to supply power to at least 1.3 million homes in the US with the amount of trash we produce each day.
Organic waste is also a source of biomass. Where does waste such as dead trees and mowed grass go? Rather than send them to the landfills, why not harness them for energy?
5. It lessens the amount of waste we produce.
We produce a huge amount of waste each day. Some of the waste we produce are biodegradable, recyclable and are also toxic. Rather than let these sit on landfills, why don’t we use them to produce energy? Many landfills are now suffering from too much trash so why don’t we lessen that load by making use of trash that is still beneficial?
List of Disadvantages of Biomass
1. It leads to deforestation.
Wood is a major source for biomass energy. A major source for wood is, of course, trees. A large number of trees are being cut down in order to produce a sufficient amount of power. Continuing to operate on such a large scale will eventually result in the destruction of our forests.
2. It doesn’t offer a 100% clean burn.
One of the highlights of biomass energy is that it’s friendly for the environment. While mostly true, it doesn’t erase the fact that burning wood and other organic matter does create pollution. Various compounds are also released when burning biomass sources. Yes, biomass has been touted as renewable but we have yet to prove that it absolutely does nothing wrong to the environment.
3. It needs a lot of space to produce.
Most of the biomass facilities are located in urban areas. As such, they contribute to more traffic in the area as well as more pollution. We are slowly becoming a very urbanized world and there are projections that suggest it will be the area where most of us would live by the end of the century. We are already feeling the disadvantages of urbanization and biomass facilities seemingly make it worse.
4. It is not cheap.
The energy plants that need to be built for biomass production are very expensive. The cost of gathering the required resources as well as the expenses needed for transportation are also quite high.
5. It contributes to pollution.
Biomass sources need to be transported. The use of vehicles has been linked with the increase in air pollution. Burning biomass releases carbon which is bad for the atmosphere. Yes, there are many benefits to the use of biomass and it has been hailed as better for the environment but it’s contribution to pollution shouldn’t be neglected.
Biomass energy may be able to produce 10 times more energy than other forms of renewable energy but it’s also a fact that it releases higher levels of gases known to contribute to global warming. Biomass is also a new alternative energy source and we are still trying to understand the ways it could be more efficient.
It also cannot be denied that biomass is a great alternative to fossil fuels and other non-renewable energy sources. There is also no denying that organic waste is aplenty and we need to make use of it rather than let it sit on landfills. As with any proposed alternatives, biomass has its fair share of supporters and detractors.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.