Biomass energy, sometimes known as ‘bio energy’, is the energy that is derived from organic matter of plants and animals. Biomass in the form of dead plants, trees, grass, leaves, crops, manure, garbage, animal waste can be a great source of alternative fuels that can be used to replace fossil fuels. Plants make use of a process called photosynthesis that converts energy from the sun into chemical energy.
This energy gets transferred to animals when they eat plants. When plants and animal waste are burned, the carbon dioxide and waste stored inside them are released back into the atmosphere. This is why biomass energy is said to be renewable. Organic materials used to produce biomass energy include forest residues (branches, dead trees, and tree stamps), wood chips, yard clippings, and municipal solid waste. This means that wood remains the largest source of biomass energy.
Biomass energy is, perhaps, one of the more controversial types of alternative energy that is being used today. In this article, we’re going to take a look at the pros and cons of biomass energy that many people bring up when they’re looking at this energy source.
Pros of Biomass Energy (Advantages)
Biomass energy is considered a renewable form of energy because the organic materials used to produce it are never-ending. The principal positive about biomass energy is that it creates power by utilizing renewable assets. The organic materials including wood, crop waste, garbage, sewage sludge, and manure are continually produced by society. In a nutshell, regrowth of these organic materials supports the fact that biomass is renewable.
These assets maybe wood waste, tree buildup, handled wood pellets or urban waste. As a rule, biomass energy plants utilize leftover wood that comes from existing logging or sawmill ventures.
2. Dependency on Fossil Fuels is Reduced
It replaces other fuel sources. In all cases, the fuel might be immediately replaced. By utilizing natural materials to deliver power, there is less interest for power created by non-renewable assets, for example, coal and gas. The entire purpose of utilizing renewable energy is to facilitate the reliance on sources that are harming nature’s domain in such a large number of ways.
3. Carbon Neutral
We all know that release of vast amounts of carbon contributes greatly to climate change. Biomass energy takes care of this since it is a natural part of the carbon cycle as opposed to fossil-based sources of fuel such as oil, natural gas, and coal. Researchers say that the only carbon emitted to the environment from biomass fuels is the amount that was absorbed by plants in the course of their life cycle.
It doesn’t produce carbon. In the process of replenishing the used plant materials, the new ones that spring up absorb an equal quantity of carbon, hence, developing neutrality that witnesses no new carbon generated. This aspect renders biomass uniquely clean.
The distinction between using biomass fuel rather than coal or gas is that the carbon that is discharged was already part of nature because of the plant. At the point when coal or gas is utilized, it is expelled starting from the earliest stage, it has been sequestered for a large number of years.
4. Widely Available
Just like sun and wind energy, biomass energy sources are bountiful in supply. You can find them virtually in every nook and cranny of the world. Organic waste in the form of dead leaves, grass and trees, animal carcasses are available in abundance and can be used to produce biomass energy.
The fact that it’s bountiful in supply means that we may never encounter problems that we are presently experiencing with fossil-based sources of fuel. This actually is good as the amount of waste that could have gone to landfills can be used as a source of energy. Nonetheless, it’s vital that we maintain the abundance of this natural resource by being responsible for its use. As long as organic matter from plants and animals is going to exist, we are never going to run out of biomass energy.
5. Can be Used in Many Forms
Biomass can be used to create different products from different forms of organic matter. It can be used to produce methane gas, biodiesel and other biofuels. It can also be used directly as heat or to generate electricity using a steam turbine.
6. Helps Reduce Waste
It helps with waste management. Most waste produced in homes is either plant matter or biodegradable. This kind of waste can be channeled to more profitable use. Biomass energy generation utilizes any waste that would have otherwise found a way into landfills. Biomass energy uses this waste so that it’s no longer sitting in landfills.
This minimizes the impacts of waste in landfills on the environment. This impact may be compounded by contamination of local habitats and the destruction of wildlife ecosystems. Minimized waste means a reduction of land intended for landfills, hence, more space for human habitats.
7. It’s Cheaper Compared to Fossil Fuels
Producing biomass energy does not involve heavy capital outlay. Fossil fuel production, on the other hand, involves high upfront capital costs such as drilling to reach oil wells, constructing gas pipelines and collecting biomass fuel. The low cost resulting from the production of biomass fuel is passed on to customers.
This means that customer’s energy bills will not depend on aspects such as availability and knee jack decisions of energy production and supply firms. Low biomass cost makes this form of energy attractive to manufacturers and producers since they are able to generate higher profits from the extremely low output.
Cons of Biomass Energy (Disadvantages)
1. Not Totally Clean When Burned
The biggest contention against biomass as clean energy is the pollution that is created from burning wood and other natural materials. Sometimes, they’re as bad as the pollution that comes from coal and other types of energy resources. There are a number of different compounds that come from burning biomass. Even though biomass energy is considered to be renewable, it is hard to claim it is clean or efficient power energy.
Using animal and human waste to power engines may save on carbon dioxide emissions, but it increases methane gases, which are also harmful to the Earth’s ozone layer. So really, we are no better off environmentally for using one or the other.
And speaking of using waste products, there is the smell to consider. While it is not physically harmful, it is definitely unpleasant, and it can attract unwanted pests (rats, flies) and spread bacteria and infection.
2. Can Lead to Deforestation
Biomass energy sources are renewable, but they have to be utilized sustainably. Uncontrolled biomass production can result in deforestation. Wood is a major source of biomass energy. To produce a considerable amount of power, a large amount of wood and other waste products have to be burned. The desire to produce energy on a large scale can lead to deforestation that would destroy the homes of a large number of plants and animals.
If deforestation is allowed to happen, scores of animal and bird species would be rendered homeless, not to mention the drought as a result. In fact, this is the main reason for slowing down the large scale use of biomass fuel. Governments feel replanting efforts may not match the rate of cutting down of trees.
3. In-efficient as Compared to Fossil Fuels
Despite the fact that biomass energy is natural in many ways, it doesn’t get close to fossil fuels in regards to efficiency. In fact, some renewable sources of energy like biofuels are fortified with fossil fuels to increase their efficiency.
4. Requires Lot of Space
It’s hard to find a plant that is in a convenient place. Many times, biomass energy plants are found in urban areas, which means that they are causing more traffic in those areas and they are causing more pollution, which seems to be more of a problem than actual help.
5. Little Expensive
The last problem that often comes up is how expensive this process is. The production of biomass plants is incredibly expensive and, in some cases, the costs are not worth the benefits. Transport and resource gathering expenses are high and will be continually needed every day. When you compare the process of biomass energy to fossil fuels, you find that the cost is actually much higher.
A typical point that is raised about biomass energy is the need to transport the fuel to the energy plant and the carbon emissions and pollution that is made in doing so. The contention is that this transforms renewable energy into a type of energy that is dependent on fossil fuel as a feature of the generation, which means that it may not be that useful as a type of “alternative energy.”
It is still advancing. As with many types of alternative energy sources, a lot of time and energy has been put into biomass energy, and a number of scientists have been working to make it more effective and more efficient.
There is a solid contention against biomass in light of the fact that it causes crops to be planted with the aim of collecting for fuel in order to power the biomass plants. By developing crops that are committed to delivering fuel that will, in the end, be used for biomass energy, we are utilizing land that may have been utilized for food sources.
This practice is said to be causing some of the food deficiencies in specific parts of the world. This is a complex issue and the recommendation that harvests developed for fuel causes food deficiencies is not necessarily a true statement. Many times, the crops that are planted for fuel are also planted alongside crops that are meant to be used for food as well, making it so that it’s used