Biomass is biological matter that is derived from plants and animals. It is a renewable source of energy that is primarily made up of carbon. Additionally, other elements like hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, alkali, heavy metals and alkaline earth are also integrated with carbon. Both biomass and fossil fuels are made up of biological matter, but still they are different in many ways. For instance, fossil fuels are not a renewable source of energy. Moreover, in its case, the biological matter undergoes several geological processes to form coal and petroleum. Biomass, on the other hand, is derived from living organisms, which are easily replaceable.
Biomass energy can be obtained from three distinct sources such as wood, solid wastes and alcohol fuels. Forests wastes like fallen leaves, branches, dead trees, tree stumps and wood chips are used to yield biomass energy. Typically, plants like corn, sugarcane, sorghum, willow, hemp, poplar, and trees as eucalyptus and oil palm are grown to provide raw material for biomass energy. Wood waste from paper, pulp and paperboard industry is also used as biomass. Municipal solid waste and ethanol are other sources of biomass.
There are several methods available to covert biomass into useable form of energy. The foremost among them is thermal conversion where combustion, gasification, torrefaction and pyrolysis are used to retrieve energy from the biomass. The next is biochemical conversion where microorganisms during fermentation, anaerobic digestion and composting release energy from the biomass. The last is the chemical conversion where various chemical reactions draw out energy from the biomass. Apart from being used directly, biomass energy can also be converted from one form to another.
1. The biggest advantage of biomass energy is that it is renewable. Plants and trees can be grown for use, and they can be re-grown again and again on the same piece of land. Thus, biomass helps to reinstate the ecological balance as well as fulfill the fuel needs of the entire world. In the times to come, dependency on biomass is going to increase further because fossil fuels are fast depleting due to extensive misuse, and it will take million of years to form new reserves.
2. Another major advantage of biomass is that it helps in solid waste management. Each day, million of tonnes of solid waste is produced with includes biodegradable waste, hazardous wastes, recyclable waste, construction waste and assorted waste. Normally, solid waste is dumped in the landfill, which causes widespread pollution. When the waste is utilized as biomass, the problem of pollution is solved and energy is also obtained.
1. As compared to fossil fuels, biomass energy is quite expensive. This is primarily because a lot of research still remains to be done, methods of extraction have to be refined, and biological matter for the biomass has to be consolidated. As progression is made in these areas, the cost of biomass energy will automatically come down.
2. Yet another disadvantage of biomass energy is that it causes air pollution is the same manner as the fossil fuels.