Biomass energy is the primary source of energy. It has been used by humans ever since the beginning of our history. It usually involves all types of matter belonging to live or recently alive organisms. This type of energy usually refers plant derived materials. Although people have been burning wood for heat since the discovery of fire, biomass is still the primary source of energy in many underdeveloped countries. Furthermore there are numerous research projects that study this type of renewable energy in order to produce cheaper and less toxic fuel.
Why is biomass better than fossil fuel?
It is a well known fact that the fuel harvested from fossils releases large amounts of carbon dioxide. Burning biomass matter also releases carbon dioxide but it can reduce the greenhouse emissions. Fuel fossil releases the carbon dioxide which was stored millions of years ago therefore this is a rather new greenhouse gas. The CO2 released by biomass is balanced by the carbon dioxide captured in the growth of the matter. For example burning a tree for heat will release CO2 but that tree has captured a lot of CO2 during its lifetime therefore the greenhouse gases are balanced and no new gases are released.
Types of good biomass energy sources
There are many sources of biomass which can reduce the overall use of carbon emissions such as energy crops which are not competing with food crops for land, crop residues like corn stover and wheat straw, sustainably harvest wood and clean industrial wastes. Energy crops should be grown in rotation with food crops or at least on marginal lands which are not fit for food crops. Foreign plants can also be grown in conjunction with food crops as they are not very dangerous for agricultural ecosystems.
Turning biomass into energy
So far the only method that humans have used in order to produce heat from biomass was to burn the matter. During the industrial revolution biomass was redirected towards steam power which was eventually used in order to generate electricity. However, as we mentioned above, there are numerous projects and experiment which are aimed at finding the best harvesting method for biomass energy. This type of matter can even be converted in liquid fuel or it can be gasified in order to produce combustible gases.
The importance of sustainability
Given the fact that humans have been gathering biomass energy since the discovery of fire we can all agree that this renewable source of energy is very efficient. Still, it is not a solution which can be used at a global scale. However, if it is harvested in a sustainable matter ( production of biomass has to be proportional to the harvested quantities) it can be an efficient alternative to fossil fuel. Combined with other sources of alternative energy, biomass can help us lower the pollution levels.