The Main Pros and Cons of Biomass Energy
The pros and cons of biomass energy have been debated frequently as the popularity of alternative energy captures the public imagination.
Biomass energy is on par with sun and wind energy when it comes to sustainability. You've probably used biomass energy for years before you had fancy name for it.
A log burning in a fireplace or a bonfire on the beach is biomass energy. Plant matter is biomass and can be converted to energy by6 burning or by applying methods to yield fermentation.
On farms, the waste dropped by livestock is biomass and today corn and other grains are grown specifically to produce biofuels such as ethanol.
Pros of Biomass Energy
Biomass energy could offer a waste management system that is far better for the environment than the methods currently used.
In the process of creating electricity from biomass, waste matter is incinerated as briquettes and the power produced is cleaner than power created using fossil fuels.
Greenhouse gas emissions are not a problem according to some experts while others claim greenhouse gas is released during the biomass energy process. Clearly, there are many unanswered questions about the pros and cons of biomass.
One major benefit that biomass energy may yield is a cost effective way to both manage solid waste and create energy for homes and businesses.
The energy from the biomass plant is usually sent to local power grids where it powers homes in the general locale of the plant.
This provides local jobs to make a locally consumed energy product and it is easier to gain public support when people feel a connection to a power plant as part of their community.
Fuel is easily found and is renewable. From crops planted with the aim of providing corn or wheat as biomass for ethanol to burning cow patties, plant and waste is constantly being produced by nature and by people.
Whether or not greenhouse gas emissions are present, there is no argument that biomass energy is cleaner than use of oil and coal. If biomass energy can also help recycle trash that is now dumped into landfills, the process will indeed be valuable.
The concern about pollution caused by burning fossil fuels is rapidly being replaced by the fear of running out of these non-renewable gifts from the earth.
Anthracite coal is the best quality coal that burns cleaner and slower but today anthracite coal has almost disappeared. Current estimates are that we could run out of usable oil in 50 years.
It is becoming clear that alternative energy sources must be taken seriously in order to wean ourselves from fossil fuel power plants.
The cost of biomass fuel is stable and only transportation by rail or sea can boost the costs. There are no disruptions to fuel supplies as we've seen with oil and no wild price increases caused by social unrest or wars in distant countries.
Cons of Biomass Energy
Even those who say biomass energy releases greenhouse gases are quick to qualify the statement by adding the gases are less than those from fossil fuels.
There is technology to clean the exhaust from biomass energy plants but the cost of the equipment is suitable only for larger plants.
Bigger plants can also be less expensive to operate as the materials used often require chipping, cutting, shredding or compacting. Collecting the biomass fuel can be expensive as large quantities are needed for the process.
With the increased use of ethanol, concerns are growing about using food crops to create energy. Corn, wheat and soybeans are often products used to ease hundred in developing nations.
These easily grown grains are now being used to make ethanol. This is a disadvantage that could carry harsh consequences if too much of the food crop is diverted for use as fuel.
Other biomass fuels such as household garbage, municipal and agricultural waste, fungus and algae are being increasing examined as biomass fuels that will not reduce the nation's surplus food supply.
The pros and cons of biomass will be studied for many years to come. Biomass used to product ethanol and biodiesel is common today yet, in the case of ethanol, questions are still being raised.
Biodiesel fuel is without doubt cleaner than petroleum diesel fuel. Just as ethanol is now blended with standard gasoline, biodiesel blended with diesel fuel can reduce emissions. Discussions of the pros and cons of biomass energy will be a topic of increased scrutiny in years to come.
Introduction of solar and wind energy has shown the difficulties in adapting our way of life to systems meant to replace fossil fuels. Biomass energy potential will be studied carefully before large power plants are constructed.
The potential for an energy source that reduces emissions, is fully renewable and potentially cost effective is exciting. Should biomass energy also help solve the problem of solid waste management, the environmental aspect alone could make biomass energy very popular.