The Cost of Producing Biomass Energy is Not Realistic
The cost of biomass production is too high for the methods to be practical in the current market. Electricity produced using biomass as fuel would have to sell for 50% more than the electricity produced using fossil fuels.
There may be a time in the future when the supply of fossil fuels is near exhaustion. When that happens, costs will skyrocket and biomass may be seen as a cheap and reasonable energy option.
What we hope is that the technology to create energy from biomass will result in a lower cost of energy production.
There is a lot of debate about the value of ethanol and the cost of producing it. Over time, the ethanol may damage car engines but the biggest problem is using food crops for automotive fuel.
The price of corn has gone up drastically and other crops have been in short supply as farmers rush to plant as much corn as possible. The market for corn is fueled by the production of ethanol but at the same time the supply of corn for food is reduced.
Biomass energy today is mostly from annual farm crops like soybeans and corn. In addition, wood waste and pressed sugar cane are used.
Development of new crop varieties is a focus for researchers who are trying to find fast growing crops like swtichgrass that can be used for the production of ethanol without taking a large percentage of food crops off the market.
The cost of biomass energy may be from burning biomass in power plants to make electricity. This produces far less greenhouse gases and emission than burning coal.
Biomass can be fermented crops which are used for ethanol and other fuels. Biomass can be gasified by heating under strict conditions which causes the mass to break down into a mixture of gasses that can then be burned.
Most biomass power plants burn wood and farming waste. Some plants also burn the methane gas than naturally forms in landfill waste.
A few power plants are beginning to supplement their use of fossil fuels with a percentage of biomass to reduce carbon emissions and meet governmental requirements.
If a mid-sized power plant adds a sustainable biomass product to its production facility it is the equivalent of removing about 17,000 automobiles from the roadways.
Coal plants that are adding biomass have cost that is not that much higher for the power produced. Biomass is often dependent on the coal fueled power plant being located close to the source of the biomass products.
Cost of Power
The cost of biomass energy varies with the type of biomass used, the type of energy produced and the power plant size. Electricity produced with burning biomass usually costs from 7 to 9 center per kilowatt hour.
There are federal incentives to biomass power that allow power plants to recover transition costs quickly and allow for accelerated depreciation of assets. This helps balance the cost by providing tax incentives.
The most common cost-effective product is wood waste which is produced in many areas of the country. In the process of creating lumber for building and in making products from furniture to paper, manufacturers produce an enormous amount of wood waste.
Power plants in locations where this waste is produced in large quantities have begun burning biomass to reduce the environmental damage from their power plants. Currently in the U.S. about 7700 Megawatts of electricity are produced using biomass fuel.