Simply put, biomass energy material from plants and animals that can be used when burned to produce energy. A common example of biomass energy is wood. Any fireplace or wood stove uses biomass every day to help regulate the temperature of their home. Besides wood, biomass energy comes in many shapes and sizes including wood chips, corn, and some types of garbage. In addition to these forms of biomass, there is also liquid biomass that can be used to fuel cars and trucks. These include things like vegetable oil, animal fats, sugarcane, and corn.
Using biomass energy can be as renewable as collecting fallen twigs and tree branches and burning them for heat. In addition, it can get as complicated as burning trash to produce power. When considering power on a local or national grid, biomass energy is a contender. Local economies produce a great deal of burnable biomass, otherwise known as bone dry biomass. Whether it is wood chippings, grass clipping, trash, animal manure, or some other source, it is often considered a free source of energy. In addition, there is the argument that it is better for the economy then burning fossil fuels. Lets take a moment to review the pros and cons of biomass energy.
The Pros of Biomass Energy
There are a number of pro biomass lobbying groups out there, intent on spreading the word regarding all the positive things associated with using biomass energy. In addition, many local organizations and individuals support biomass usage over other more damaging energy sources.
1. It Is Produced and Normally Discarded.
There are a number of things a government and locals do to create biomass that would otherwise be discarded. Consider lawn trimmings or garbage as an example. In both situations, we are producing something that will otherwise be thrown away. Those interested in harnessing biomass energy see this discarded product as the key to cheaper electricity. By making use of the biomass for the sake of energy, we conserve and reuse everything. As a result, using biomass is often seen as a move towards conservation.
2. Pollutes Less Then The Alternatives.
When it comes to finding sources for energy, the question becomes, “What is the least harmful way of generating power?” Biomass energy is not only a renewable resource, but it is pollutes a great deal less then natural gas, coal, oil, fossil fuels, and many others. While there is a certain imprint created by burning biomass, it is argued that the imprint is far smaller then the majority of other energy creating methods currently out there.
3. Saves on Transportation Costs.
Biomass is produced everywhere. Local areas can tap into their biomass energy and produce power on a more local level. This dramatically reduces the amount of energy wasted on transportation costs.
The Cons of Biomass Energy
A number of scientists, environmentalists, and concerned individuals are against the idea of biomass energy. These reasons range from the damage it can cause to a more refined look at the overall cost.
1. Carbon Dioxide And Green House Gases.
Even if it is less then other forms of energy, there is no getting around that biomass energy releases green house gases and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. By using biomass energy on top of pre-existing energy sources, it would only add to the rate of global warming, the decrease of the ozone layer, and the increased threat of harmful UV radiation on humans, plants, and other animals. This is why many people see biomass energy as a slippery slope to a far more troubling future.
2. Higher Costs Depending On Processing Type.
The above fears can be mitigated by converting biomass into forms of fuel like alcohol or methane. However, the process that converts biomass to these forms of fuels require energy to do. As a result, it may be less efficient for small and medium scale operations.
3. Costs of Transportation to the Processing Center.
While processing plants can be localized to cut down on the cost of transferring power, there is still the loss associated with transporting materials to the processing center. Given the size and weight of biomass material, the costs of transporting materials to the processing center are noticeable.
4. Water Usage and Storage Space
Biomass energy processing centers require a great deal of water to help process waste materials. In places where water is scarce or there is a drought, this can be a real problem. In addition, a biomass power plant requires a great deal of space. The space is used to store biomass in its various forms as it goes from its original form into the energy required to create power.
While far from the perfect source of energy, the above pros and cons show that biomass is an interesting alternative when it comes to new forms of energy.
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.