Disadvantages of biomass

Disadvantages of biomass

Although biomass has seen growing popularity in recent years due to its viability as a renewable energy source, there are a number of disadvantages that it holds over other alternative sources of energy that are limiting its application and scope of usage worldwide. These disadvantages can generally be summed up into three categories:

– Carbon Emissions
– Production Volume
– Harvesting Limitations

Carbon Emissions

Due to the fact that biomass contains large volumes of carbon and the usage of it as a fuel source (typically through the process of burning it), releases these carbon atoms into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide these emissions, commonly referred to as greenhouse gases, are the primary factor in contributing to global warming worldwide and are seen as a major drawback from the usage of biomass for fuel. Though it’s true that biomass emissions can be neutralized and therefore classify biomass fuel as a “carbon neutral fuel source” due to the fact that carbon dioxide absorbing plants are generally used as the basic fuel for biomass energy production heavy deforestation and other actions that are reducing the available organic carbon dioxide absorbing plants worldwide are common place and an ongoing threat to the world’s delicate eco-balance. This destruction of carbon absorbing organisms limits the overall ability for the carbon emissions produced from biomass fuel usage to be reabsorbed and therefore the overall carbon emissions from its usage can become harmful to the world environment as a whole –- a major disadvantage over other “green” energy sources such as solar, thermal or wind power.

Production Volume

Though biomass fuel is a renewable and virtually limitless source of energy a major limitation for its application around the world lies in the available biomass in its rawest form that can be used and converted efficiently and to energy. This is due the fact that although biomass fuels are renewable and can be grown each year to replace any fuel that may have been consumed previously the production time available for these fields to be cultivated for usage is limited to seasonal change as well as the available land that is used specifically for biomass fuels. This means that although biomass is a reasonable alternative to conventional fuels in many aspects and can easily be used to provide energy around the globe it may not be able to provide an adequate volume necessary to replace other conventional fuel sources such as petrol-based fuels and allow for consumers to rely entirely on biomass as a viable alternative energy source due to simple volume limitations alone.

Harvesting Limitations

Another major concern about biomass fuels being used is that the actual ability to harvest these efficiently for use is limited. This is not only do to the volume that can be produced each year as described above but due to the energy costs that biomass harvesting machines and equipment need in order to be used to harvest fuel. Most often these machines have very high energy requirements themselves and as a result the actual net energy gained from biomass fuel production is heavily limited. Until alternatives can be found or advancements made in order to allow for easier and more efficient harvesting biomass fuel, its viability as a alternative energy source will remain limited simply due to the energy drawbacks of its harvesting and production process alone.

1 Comment »

    Russell Barnes Says:

    Woody biomass is about 50% water by weight.It takes a lot of fuel oilto get that watert to market.
    As a producer of woody biomass I have no real interest in producing until the delivered price gets to around $40/green ton from the less than $30 today Biomass may be an alternative to fossil fuel in some circumstances but it’s not going to go anywhere if the feedstocks have to be cheap. There is only so much biomass that can be diverted from landfills.


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