1.6.4 Biomass Energy
Generate electricity within the laws of the carbon cycle. Biomass, generated by plants, nurtured by solar energy and by animals that consume these plants, is a source of renewable energy. It includes refuse, sewage and sludge, live stock manure, straw and wood, vegetable oil, and plant material such as corn and soy. Methane is processed to generate electricity and heat, and plant material is processed to generated combustible fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel. See 1.7.1 Cogeneration and 3.2.1 Solid Waste Treatment.
Biomass is any organic material made from plants or animals. Biofuels are any fuel derived from biomass. Agricultural products specifically grown for conversion to biofuels include corn and soybeans. Other crops, such as barley, wheat, rice, sorghum, sunflower, potatoes, sugar cane and sugar beets, can also be used to produce ethanol. Biodioesel can be made from vegetable oils, animal fats or greases. Most biodiesel today is made from soybean oil.
Thermo-chemical: When plant matter is heated but not burned, it breaks down into various gases, liquids, and solids. Biochemical: Bacteria, yeasts and enzymes also break down carbohydrates. Fermentation, the process used to make wine, changes biomass liquids into alcohol, a combustible fuel. Chemical: Biomass oils, like soybean and canola oil, can be chemically converted into a liquid fuel similar to diesel fuel and into gasoline additives.
Cost will vary depending on the type of biomass material and processing required. See links for renewable energy incentive programs.
Biomass energy can offer carbon-neutral, free electricity and heat, reduced air and water pollution, improved wildlife habitat, increased soil quality and reduced erosion.
Biomass processing, and the generation of power and heat are part of a communal or municipal supply infrastructure and are ideally linked with cogeneration systems. Individual buildings can be designed to recycle and reuse biomass for electricity, heating and cooling. Systems are available for all applications, from small houses and light commercial to large district heating schemes.
3.2.0 Solid Waste Treatment