Speaking of resources, the world changes pace everyday. First there was evolution which took us from wood to steel to iron (and more), then development happened and took us to the stage that we are in now. Now we see that there are distinct shifts in policies which have taken us back to our roots and have been able to reacquaint us with the natural resources that we once used. One of those resources was biomass. This article will try to give you an in-depth review on the advantages and disadvantages of biomass energy.
What is Biomass
Biomass is biological matter that is acquired from plants and animals and has large amounts of carbon as well as traces of oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, alkaline earth, and heavy metals in it. One of the main advantages of biomass is that it is a renewable source of energy (it can be easily replaced).
The main sources that are used to formulate biomass are wood, alcohol fuels, and solid waste. These would include things like fallen branches and leaves (of the forest), dead plants, wood waste from paper and pulp, domestic waste, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), recyclable waste, ethanol, and others. Alcohol fuels are typically derived from sugarcane plants and other plants like corn, willow, oil palm, eucalyptus, poplar, and hemp. These provide raw material for biomass energy which is then used in numerous ways, like boilers and waste management. For example, the advantages of biomass boilers is that it allows for the effective use of wood waste, which proves to be ecological as well.
Advantages of Biomass
Uses Renewable Resources
Biomass is derived from sources like plants and animals―sources which are replaceable. Plants can be generated over and over again on the same piece of land without incurring any extra cost. Therefore, the raw material is readily available for use and makes for great renewable energy sources.
Reduces Dependency on Fossil Fuels
The thing about fossil fuels like petroleum, coal and others, is that they are present in limited numbers. It takes millions of years for these fuels to be generated and therefore, when they are consumed and exhausted, civilization will not have to come to a standstill. Biomass fuels can be used as an effective energy source and therefore they reduce the dependency on fossil fuels.
This works on a lot of levels. First of all, biomass uses the waste material and converts it into an energy source. Therefore it reduces the instances of garbage being dumped and causing air pollution. So also, biomass helps to reduce the levels of methane (which is released due to the decomposition of organic matter) in the air. Methane leads to the greenhouse effect and is thus, extremely harmful for the environment. By using the organic wastes before they release methane, biomass proves to be a savior. So also, growing the plants that are used as raw material for biomass, lead to more oxygen emissions and lessened carbon dioxide emissions.
Disadvantages of Biomass
The disadvantages of biomass electricity (for example) is that it is extremely expensive to produce. It requires a lot of resources to convert the raw materials to an energy source. It is, in fact, more expensive than fossil fuel production. The reason being that there is not much research done in this area for it to be an advantageous alternative fuel source.
It is difficult to generate all that raw material due to certain obstacles. For one, the plants that are used, are not grown all year round. Secondly, the harvesting and processing of the plants takes up more resources and energy, and as far as animals are concerned, the source is always limited.
This is an ironic point because even though biomass holds the ability to reduce the greenhouse effect by controlling the production of methane, there are environmental disadvantages of biomass as well―if the plants are burned directly, they lead to as much environmental pollution as fossil fuel production does because they emit greenhouse gases. That is why, in some cases, the production of biomass is also not as advantageous as one thinks.
There are advantages of biomass and there are disadvantages of biomass. And even though we know of the pros and cons of biomass energy, it is time that the world recognizes the potential in this energy source and devises ways by which all disadvantages of biomass will be eliminated to achieve an end product that is truly the answer to our energy problems.