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What is Biomass Energy? – EV i Power
Biomass EnergyEV BlogGreen Energy

What is Biomass Energy?

It is the most basic form of resource known to humankind since a very long time. This form of energy is basically heat from burning wood in its simplest definition. Biomass which was buried billions of years ago underground is being used as fossil energy now everywhere. In present context biomass energy is far different from fossil energy as plant and animal matter available on the ground is used as a source and not the buried one.

The biomass energy is a renewable resource which is not carbon negative but carbon neutral. Other renewable sources like solar, wind, tidal, wave etc which are carbon negative, does not include release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere when generating energy/electricity. Biomass energy is carbon neutral because greenhouse gases are emitted when biomass is used as a resource, also live plants which are converted to biomass use carbon dioxide via photosynthesis to live.

On the other hand manure from animals and even humans is a form of biomass which can be used as a resource and many projects on the planet are running on this resource.

Types of Biomass Energy

        1. Wood Fuel: The most basic one which is used from a very long time as an energy resource. This is as old as humans have known igniting fire and is being used since then. At present many energy crops are being planted by many farmers where there is still demand for this type of fuel. Vast fields of energy crops (mainly trees) are planted for this case and cycle is maintained in growing and chopping them off for use.

        2. Biogas: Anaerobic digestion of biomass with help of bacteria produces biogas as a product. This biogas is actually methane, a very combustible and potent gas. Biomass can be manure from livestock like cows, horses, pigs, chicken etc or even sewage sludge from sewage treatment plants of human inhabitation. This gas or biogas can be used to ignite and generate electricity from a steam turbine or biogas can also be transported to boilers giving heat to a community from a district heating system or can also be used as gas in kitchens for cooking.

        3. Biomass briquette/pellets: Biomass briquette or pellets are compressed form of biomass also known as white coal or green coal. Agriculture waste, industrial waste, forestry waste is mostly used to produce briquette/pellets as products. Mechanical or hydraulic machines are used to form these briquettes or pellets of the available biomass. Briquettes and pellets are used in boilers of small industries using wood fuel or coal as fuel for their operation. Also biomass briquettes/pellets are used in large coal fired thermal power plants instead of coal, hence turning carbon neutral and providing constant generation of electricity.

        4. Bio-ethanol and methanol: Bio-ethanol is the petrol produced from plants like wheat, barley and sugarcane. Whereas bio-methanol is diesel produced from waste vegetable oil and oil seed crops like jatropha, corn, cannabis etc. These are widely produced and used in many countries as engine modifications are not required like for LPG or CNG. Algae as a crop is being promoted a lot to be used to make biofuel as it grows on water and food vs fuel can be ignored in this case.

        5. Biomass Gasification: Gasification of biomass to produce wood gas or syngas is being used from decades and is one of the most efficient ways to use biomass energy as a resource. When
          biomass is heated or burnt in very less or no oxygen then syngas is produced. This process is called pyrolysis. This syngas is highly combustible and is used to generate electricity or run cars (Like in World War 2 in Germany). This type of energy generation from biomass makes it carbon negative as greenhouse gases are not released to the atmosphere but are used on the ground as a form of energy.

        6. Biochar: In its most recent stages of research this is a very valuable form of biomass. This can also called as a by product of gasification of biomass. Coal in its natural form is buried under the ground and is being used since the beginning of industrial evolution. Using coal in steam engines has brought humans to this evolved state in no time as compared to life of this planet. Biochar is keeping carbon in the ground and not letting it out to the atmosphere. This resource is used as a fertilizer and is very good to keep moisture in the ground and aid to grow the vegetation.

      Future of Biomass Energy

      It is evident that energy in any form is required everywhere on the planet. Humans have reached a state of evolution where living without energy as a resource is very difficult. Solar and wind being renewable forms of energy are being exploited at a large scale because of their carbon negative nature. But solar and wind are not constant in terms of generation of energy. This is an advantage with biomass. In all the types of biomass energy, the generation of energy can be kept constant. Be it wood fuel, briquettes, liquid fuel or energy from gasification. If the biomass raw-material availability is constant then a base load power plant can run just on biomass. It is a viable energy resource which is being used and will continue to be used in future.

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