What is Biomass Electricity and is it Green?
Thursday, March 12, 2009
In the race to find a sustainable source of alternative energy, many heads are turning towards biomass electricity. There are many questions being asked, from exactly how the electricity is made and what it is to whether it is truly a green alternative. While far fewer consumers know about biomass and the potential held within that would be preferred, the word seems to be spreading quickly, adding to the hope that there will be a more significant demand for this unique method of energy production.
Biomass is living and recently dead biological matter, and can include yard clippings, tree branches, and wood chips. Biomass is typically obtained from harvesting and processing agricultural and forestry crops. In a process called co-generation, the biomass is burned, creating steam that turns turbines in order to create electricity. The steam is then used for secondary processes, from factory use to things such as drying out vegetables, making the entire process remarkably energy efficient.
The United States currently utilizes biomass for approximately 0.5 percent of its electricity generation. This small percentage of biomass use saves approximately eleven million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year compared to fossil fuel combustion. Converting biomass to energy also changes methane or CH4 to carbon dioxide or CO2. Because methane emissions are far more harmful to the greenhouse gases surrounding the atmosphere, this process is considered a highly valuable tool in the fight against global warming. Biomass electricity production reduces greenhouse gases at least five times more effectively than other methods of producing electricity, both renewable and nuclear.
One fact that surprises many consumers is that biomass was once the primary source of heat across the globe. When thinking of what comprises biomass, many people do not realize that firewood is considered a source. When considering the amount of homes that still implement fireplaces and the cost effectiveness and efficiency that comes with these heat sources, the need for a source of biomass power on a larger scale becomes more obvious.
One place some cities are finally beginning to see as an excellent source of biomass is municipal waste areas. As landfills are exceeding their capacity, we are left with lots of trash and nowhere to store it. A great percentage of our waste is able to be used to produce energy, and many cities are starting to see that converting this waste to energy has multiple benefits in that it creates renewable and environmentally friendly energy while also reducing landfill bound waste.
While most sources of energy must start at the top before they will be usable to consumers, there are a variety of options for using biomass to power your home. New homes can be built to burn wood or other biomass to produce energy. Homes are still connected to a city grid in case there is a need for more power, and when excess power is created it produces a credit as the electric meter runs backwards. As the cost of energy rises significantly, more and more homeowners are implementing such systems in their homes, with the global hope that businesses and industries will soon be forced to follow suit.
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posted by zaki yamani @ 10:20 PM,
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I’m Zaki. I used to be a project, process and chemical engineer. Few years ago I successfully became a Chartered Engineer (IChemE) and Professional Engineer (BEM). I'm now employed as a chemical engineering educator/researcher/consultant. Hope you like reading my blog. I welcome any feedback from you. My email: zaki.yz[alias]gmail.com. TQ!