Biomass is big news at the moment and it’s understandable why this is the case. It offers a far greener and lower costing form of energy than the fossil fuel alternatives out there and it’s freely available.

Biomass is organic matter and comes from plants and animals. The top forms of biomass tend to be crops, manure and rubbish - these make excellent fuel. Biomass can be used for a range of different uses and can be used to create heat, generate electricity via a steam turbine and also used to make gas, biodiesel and other biofuels. So, let’s take a closer look at the ups and down of this alternative energy.

 

Benefits of Biomass

Biomass is a completely renewable form of energy and can be grown or created year after year. As bio mass comes from things like garbage and manure, it will always be in plentiful supply. Other biomass such as crops can be grown and gathered and this can be done in as short of time as it takes to plant and harvest these crops.

Carbon Neutral and Green

Carbon is created when the biomass is burned that is true. However carbon is also absorbed into the plants and crops when growing, making it carbon neutral. Biomass and utilisation of biomass for energy creates a balance and the cycle creates no more carbon than was already there before. In short it will not contribute to global warming and is a clean form of fuel.

If using a biomass heating system, users should ensure that the biomass they have is untreated and have no residues or chemicals used on them. For instance wood should be ‘virgin wood’ and not treated with chemicals, while crops should have no residues used on them.

Cost Effective

It’s a lot lower in price to harvest that it is to mine coal or drill oil and it will generally cost around a third less of the price a fossil fuel would. This means that you can save around 33% of your power needs each year, which over a period of time is a notable amount of money.

Everywhere

Biomass in one form or another can be grown in most parts of the world and this means that there will be no need to transport energy, no need for pipelines and no need for the movement of fuel for energy through tankers – always a risky manoeuvre.

Negatives of Biomass

Space

Biomass requires large areas of land to create the energy in the first place and this can cause problems where land is expensive. The areas also for storing large amounts of crops and other materials may also be quite large. This can push people away from biomass as it may seem expensive and also troublesome. In poorer countries where food production may be in shortage it can often be quite hard to justify the creation of biomass for heating and the amount of energy that goes into in financial and also moral terms.

Biomass heating systems however do make a lot of sense in countries with the means to utilise the benefits of the material.

Cormac Reynolds is a green advocate and has a strong belief in environmentalism. He enjoys the great outdoors and travel.