Efficient Green Power - Biomass Energy Power

Biomass Power

Biomass is biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms. Plants or plant-based materials called lignocellulosic biomass makeup the source of most biofuel. As an energy source, biomass can either be used directly via combustion to produce heat, or indirectly after converting it to various forms of biofuel. Conversion of biomass to biofuel can be achieved by different methods can be categorized into: thermal, chemical, and biochemical methods.

The source of biomass, biofuels can be generally classified into two major categories. First-generation biofuels, sourced from plants such as sugarcane and corn starch, are ferrmented to produce bioethanol. The sugars present are turned into an alcohol fuel which can be used directly in a fuel cell to produce electricity or serve as an additive to gasoline (ethane). Second-generation biofuels utilize non-food-based biomass sources such as agriculture and municipal waste. This low-value industry waste is a favored alternative, although economical production of second-generation biofuel is not yet achieved due to technological limitations with chemical inertness and structural rigidity of lignocellulosic biomass.

Even today, biomass is the only source of fuel for domestic use in many developing countries. Biomass is all biologically-produced matter based in carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The estimated biomass production in the world is 104.9 petagrams of carbon per year, about half in the ocean and half on land.

Wood remains the largest biomass energy source to date; forest residues (dead trees, tree stumps, and branches), yard clippings, wood chips and municipal solid waste. Biomass includes plant or animal matter that can be converted into fibers or other industrial chemicals, including biofuels. Industrial biomass can be grown from numerous types of plants, including sugarcane, bamboo, miscanthus, switchgrass, hemp, corn, poplar, willow, sorghum, and a variety of tree species, ranging from eucalyptus to palm oil. Plant energy is produced by crops specifically grown for use as fuel that offer high biomass output per hectare with low input energy. The grain can be used for liquid transportation fuels while the straw can be burned to produce heat or electricity.

Plant biomass can also be degraded from cellulose to glucose through a series of chemical treatments, and the resulting sugar can then be used as a first generation biofuel. Biomass can be converted to other usable forms of energy like methane gas or transportation fuels like ethanol and biodiesel. Rotting garbage, and agricultural and human waste, all release methane gas—also called landfill gas or biogas. Crops, such as corn and sugar cane, can be fermented to produce the transportation fuel, ethanol. Biodiesel, another transportation fuel, can be produced from left-over food products like vegetable oils and animal fats. Also, biomass to liquids (BTLs) and cellulosic ethanol are still under research.

Future of Biofuel
The future is moving towards algal, or algae-derived, biomass because of it's speed of growth and production rate without comprimising food production. Produced at rates five to ten times faster than other types of land-based agriculture, such as corn and soy, iit can be fermented to produce biofuels such as ethanol, butanol, and methane, as well as biodiesel and hydrogen.

The biomass used for electricity generation varies by region. Forest by-products, such as wood residues, are common in the United States. Agricultural waste is common in Mauritius (sugar cane residue) and Southeast Asia (rice husks). Animal husbandry residues, such as poultry litter, are common in the UK.

The main contributors of waste energy are municipal solid waste, manufacturing waste, and landfill gas. Energy derived from biomass is projected to be the largest non-hydroelectric renewable resource of electricity in the US between 2000 and 2020. The biomass power generating industry in the United States, which consists of approximately 11,000 MW of summer operating capacity actively supplying power to the grid, produces about 1.4 percent of the U.S. electricity supply.

As of 2015, a new bioenergy sewage treatment process aimed at developing countries is under trial; the Omni Processor is a self-sustaining process which uses sewerage solids as fuel in a process to convert waste water into drinking water, with surplus electrical energy being generated for export.

Biomass Fuel Energy Costs
biofuel emissions comparison
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