The impact of fossil fuels on our environment is becoming an increasingly concerning topic and efforts to reduce the harmful effects of these finite resources are becoming ever more pressing. When resources such as coal, oil, and gas are burnt, they release large amounts of carbon dioxide which contributes to the greenhouse effect and global warming. Sulphur dioxide emissions associated with these non-renewable materials also cause environmental problems such as acid rain.
Biomass energy offers an environmentally friendly and economically viable alternative to these harmful fossil fuels. The term Biomass refers to the energy that is contained within a wide variety of materials including plants, animals, and the waste products from organic sources such as forest debris, crops, and manure.
Whilst natural materials such as wood have always been used as fuel sources, today’s advancements in biomass energy take it a step further – biomass fuel products are now mass-produced and can be used to power large scale power plants. Although still a relatively new source of fuel, Biomass power stations currently generate around 11,000MW of energy – the second largest source of renewable energy.
There are a host of environmental benefits associated with biomass power plants.
Reduction of Carbon Emissions – Biomass energy is estimated by the Biomass Power Association to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 15 million tons a year. The burning of biomass fuels does release carbon dioxide however it emits much less than the burning of fuels such as natural gas and coal. In addition to this, as well as emitting only a fraction of the carbon that fossil fuels produce, the organic nature of biomass fuels also means that they actually take carbon out of the atmosphere whilst they are growing. Although this carbon dioxide is then released back into the air when the fuel is burnt, it creates a carbon cycle rather than adding additional carbon to the atmosphere.
Renewable – The fuel for biomass power plants can be sourced locally and is fully renewable. This means that there is no risk that the fuel will run out, as with more traditional fuels. It also removes the problems associated with sourcing and supplying fuel, which according to stainless steel pipe fittings supplier Custom Fittings impacts heavily upon energy and petrol prices.
Constant Power – Other environmentally friendly power sources, such as solar power and wind energy, rely upon specific weather conditions to generate energy. This restricts how much energy can be generated, as well as how dependent we can become on these sources (particularly in countries like the UK where the weather is notoriously unreliable and sunshine hours are limited). Biomass fuel, on the other hand, relies entirely on combustion making it more reliable as, just like fossil fuels, it can generate electricity at any time and in any conditions.
Landfill Space – Biomass power plants utilise a lot of the waste products that are generated by our society on a constant basis. Burning these waste products can help to preserve landfill space and reduce the production and release of methane, another harmful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.
Versatility – Biomass power plants can employ a variety of techniques in order to produce different types of Biomass fuel for a range of different purposes. To generate electricity, biomass fuel is burnt in boilers in order to produce steam. This steam is then used to turn a turbine and power a generator. Some biomass power plants can also convert the biomass into gaseous or liquid fuels that can be used to power more efficient and productive gas turbines.
Biomass power is extremely versatile an there are plenty of ways it will help in the long term as you can see from above.