Biomass is a renewable source of energy and its use does not contribute to global warming. In fact, it can reduce the atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide as it acts as a sink, and soil
carbon can also increase.
Of all the forms of renewable energy, only hydropower and wind produce similar amounts of electricity to bioenergy but of these biopower can provide base load power.
Biomass fuels have negligible sulphur content and therefore do not contribute to sulphur dioxide emissions which cause acid rain.
The combustion of biomass generally produces less ash than coal combustion, and the ash produced can be used as a soil additive on farm land to recycle material such as
phosphorous and potassium.
The conversion of agricultural and forestry residues, and municipal solid waste for energy production is an effective use of waste products that also reduces the significant problem of
waste disposal, particularly in municipal areas.
Biomass is a domestic resource, which is not subject to world price fluctuations or the supply uncertainties of imported fuels. In developing countries in particular, the use of liquid biofuels, such as biodiesel and ethanol, reduces the economic pressures of importing petroleum products.
Perennial energy crops, such as grasses and trees, have lower environmental impacts than conventional agricultural crops. On the other hand bioenergy has these constraints:
In nature, biomass has relatively low energy density and so transportation increases the costs and reduces the net energy production. Biomass has a low bulk density and large volumes are needed compared to fossil fuels, which makes transportation and handling difficult and costly. The key to overcoming this problem is locating the energy conversion process close to
concentrated sources of biomass, such as sawmills, sugar mills or pulp mills.
Edgar van der Meer
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