Biomass energy is a source of energy produced from organic matter, often plants or manure. There are many advantages of biomass energy, one of the key ones being the fact that it is carbon neutral.
Biomass energy has a very small carbon footprint compared to that of fossil fuel. As long as a new plant is grown in its place, it produces no net CO2 increase. Unlike other fossil fuels, which, when burned release carbon in to the atmosphere, responsible production of biomass energy results in no new carbon emissions. It also produces incredibly low amounts of sulfur emissions, which helps prevent acid rain.
Another benefit is methane reduction, one of the major causes of global warming. The decomposition of organic materials does release methane, but this is captured to yield energy. This helps to protect the atmosphere while creating energy. Its use of waste, such as animal and crop waste, before it is converted in to carbon dioxide, is crucial in making use of the millions of tons of waste we generate every day. The recycling of biomass waste also reduces the need to create new landfill sites.
One of the most obvious advantages of biomass is that it is readily available. Until the 19th century biomass actually accounted for 70% of the worlds energy, before technology led to the burning of other fuels. Due to its continued presence in the natural world, biomass energy still accounts for about 30% of energy in developing countries and rural areas. It exists in almost all parts of the world, the only real exception being desert areas where organic material is difficult to grow. In addition, biomass plants can easily be distributed to areas with insufficient energy resources, acting as an efficient form of power generation. They can be grown in small, remote areas unlike other power sources with require large facilities.
As the use of biomass isn’t dependent on its surroundings in the way some other fuels are, it can also reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources. Instead we can invest in local production, which also helps our economy. Biomass crops can be a profitable alternative for farmers, as they can grow them alongside existing crops and on otherwise underutilized land.
As well as being so readily available, biomass is a continuous source of power. This is unlike other renewable energy forms such as wind and solar power which are restricted by weather or time of day. Biomass energy can be produced almost 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Looking at all of these advantages of biomass energy, it becomes clear that it has long been an underappreciated and convenient source of energy. This under appreciation is now changing as the technology involved in its production advances.