Biomass – advantages and disadvantages

In search of renewable energy sources, people began to discover the potential hidden in organic matter. It turned out that valuable fuels can be produced from various types of leftovers and plant or animal waste. Is it worth to invest in biomass energy? We will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this solution below.

Published: 9-01-2023

What is biomass? Examples

The concept of biomass has been making a staggering career in the energy, heating and agriculture industries for over years. What is biomass? In short, it is organic matter that is biodegradable and can be converted into ecological fuel or biogas.

The definition of biomass can be found in the Polish Act of February 20, 2015 on renewable energy sources. According to this act, biomass should be defined as biodegradable waste or residues of biological origin, plant and animal substances related to:

  • agriculture,
  • forestry,
  • fishing,
  • aquaculture,
  • industry

Biomass can also be biodegradable municipal waste as well as sewage and sludge from sewage treatment plants. Pellets, briquettes and agrichar (torificate) are made from these natural raw materials.

Biomass fuelled power plant: advantages and disadvantages

As a response to the growing problem of global warming, many concepts have been developed on how to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. One example of such pro-ecological activities is to build electrical energy plants powered by biomass fuels. What are the advantages of this solution? Unlike coal and gas power plants, biomass power plants do not increase greenhouse gas levels. The level of carbon dioxide that is generated in the process of burning biofuels does not exceed the amount of this gas produced during the natural transformation of plants (photosynthesis).

Do biomass power plants have disadvantages? Opponents of such solutions believe that modern biomass production technologies have little to do with ecology. Sceptics cite high electricity and heat consumption as the main argument against bio-power plants. The production process itself is time-consuming and requires the use of expensive technologies and equipment , which generates significant costs and burdens the environment.

What are the disadvantages of biomass?

What are the disadvantages of biomass as a fuel? Please note that it is a raw material with a lower calorific value than coal or natural gas. As a result of biomass combustion in boilers, large amounts of ash are also generated, which requires frequent removal of ash and cleaning of heating installations. Pellets, chips, and straw also require proper storage: if they are not properly housed, they quickly absorb moisture and their efficiency becomes degraded. A significant problem for biomass recipients is related to the increase in energy prices, specifically the growing price of the raw material.

The most important advantages of biomass

Biomass is one of the most future-proof raw materials, without which it would be difficult to imagine modern power engineering. Its greatest advantage is that it does not require mining – it is a 100% renewable and generally available product. It is created, among other ways, as a result of the disposal of municipal waste or animal excrement, i.e., material that is produced every day around the world in almost limitless amounts. Bio-waste is natural and does not harm the environment, and the ash obtained from it is an excellent organic fertiliser.

Particularly noteworthy is the ecological way of obtaining biomass. It is made of post-production waste generated during wood processing. Special energy crops, planned on wastelands or on sterile post-industrial soils, are also a valuable source of biofuels. Fast-growing plant species, such as energy willow or Jerusalem artichoke, produce oxygen and improve the condition of soils.

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