Biomass is a renewable energy source that is used to generate electricity.
Organic matter (from trees and plants) is burned to heat water, creating steam. The steam then puts pressure on a turbine, causing it to turn, powering a generator and creating electricity.
Alternative ways to utilise biomass energy includes:
- The use of biodiesel
- Burning solid waste
- Fermenting alcohol to create bioethanol
- Biogas from agricultural and sewage waste
Though this article concentrates on the burning of organic matter.
Although considered a renewable resource, the process of generating electricity through biomass does cause greenhouse gas emissions. Depending on the type of biomass that is burned, these emissions may be higher or lower than those generated from some nonrenewable fossil fuels (like gas or coal).
However, plants and trees actively remove and store greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere as part of their natural process. Therefore, it is considered a renewable resource as it can be used as a tool to reduce carbon emissions, so long as it is sustainably maintained and managed.
A renewable resource
The sun is a free resource and plays an active role in the biomass energy collection process. Plants are renewable as they can be regrown, so long as new plants and trees are planted hand-in-hand with the electricity generation process.
Reduced environmental impact
By utilising plant and animal waste, biomass energy is reducing the environmental impact this waste would have if they were simply left at landfill sites.
Steady access to biomass materials
Access to biomass materials will continue to be steady, so long as we are actively replanting and replenishing our stock, unlike fossil fuels such as coal; which are finite.
Lower costs compared to nonrenewable fossil fuels
The cost of collecting biomass materials is lower than the cost of collecting nonrenewable fossil fuels such as oil.
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