Biomass for the masses

11.01.06 | 1 Comment

A few months ago I posted an entry about biodiesel fuel which is a great example of biomass at work. A plant undergoing a process to transform it into a fuel for use (biorefining) in our current infrastructure, in this case, transportation.

That’s a great specific case, but biomass is, when you get right down to it, harnessing the power of photosynthesis. Biomass can be easily characterized as biofuels (biodiesel and ethanol,) biopower (typically burning plant waste to generate electricity,) and bioproducts (converting plants into chemicals that replace petroleum products.)

As is true with most renewable technologies, biomass has been around forever. While you might not really think of it this way, a wood fueled fire providing heat really is biomass at work.

Advantages to biomass include the fact that the fuel stock is renewable, plentiful, and generally neutral in CO2 emissions. We certainly know how to grow things very effectively. Disadvantages include particulate emissions from oxidation and farming related issues – water usage and pollution through fertilizers and insectacides. Also, each square meter of ground dedicated to biomass may be a square meter taken out of food production.

Garden variety soybean field (a prominant source of biofuels.)

Like wind and solar, biomass has it’s place in the renewable portfolio and has the potential, particularly in the transportation sector, to move us toward energy independence from fossil fuels.

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