What is Biomass

This is a renewable source of energy that comes from organic materials. You can convert it into other forms of energy like biogas or you can just burn it directly. Examples of biomass include:

  • Wood waste – it produces heat for buildings, industries and also generates electricity.
  • Agricultural crops and waste materials – they are used directly or converted to other biofuels.
  • Food, yard, and wood waste in the garbage – generate electricity in power plants or converted to biogas.
  • Animal manure and human sewage – they are converted to biogas fuel.

Types of biomass

Agricultural Residues

Plants residues include all agricultural wastes. They can be processed and converted into energy through decomposition. They may include;

  • Rice straw and rice husks.
  • Maize stems, cobs  and leaves
  • Sugarcane  bagasse
  • Coconuts the produce shell and fibres.

Animal Waste

Animal and poultry manure are the most common sources of animal waste. For anaerobic digestion, you let the waste decompose and be broken down into biogas.  You can use biogas to provide electricity, heating, for cooking and even as fuel for your vehicle. You can use manure as fertilizer for your crops.

Forestry Residues

These normally have a low fuel value. When you cut older trees, only 25 -50% of the cut material is taken. A lot of residues is left behind which can be a source of energy. There may also be stands destroyed by pests or fire which are an additional source if biomass.

Wood Waste

The amount of wood wastes depends on the industry. It could be sawmilling, plywood mills, building, flooring, etc. It provides a convenient supply of energy because it is renewable and friendly to the environment. You need to first store the wood to reduce its moisture content. This increases its heat content.

Industrial Wastes

These can be solid or liquid wastes. These wastes have organic compounds that increase their potential to undergo anaerobic digestion to produce biogas.

Industries also release wastewater which is highly heterogeneous with compounds from other raw materials. These can also be processed to give energy.

Municipal Solid Wastes and Sewage

These include household wastes which are usually disposed of in open fields. It can be converted to energy by anaerobic digestion or but directly burning it.

If anaerobic digestion happens in the landfill, the gas released is collected and purified then used to generate heat and power.

Biomass energy Definition

This is the energy generated from organic raw materials. Plants usually trap the sun’s energy through photosynthesis. It is this trapped energy that is present in Biomatter.

The most common form is wood. It has been continuously used for heating and cooking over time. It contains around 15 MJ/kg. However, if you dry it before it’s burned, it is boosted to around 18 MJ/kg.

This energy is a renewable source hence has no risk of depletion. This makes it a good alternative for fossil fuels which are expensive and harmful to the environment.

 How Does Biomass Energy Work

Through Photosynthesis, plants absorb energy from the sun  Chlorophyll then converts carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates. When these are burnt, they release energy.

When you burn biomatter you produce steam. This steam travels through pipes to run turbines. This eventually produces heat and generates electricity.

The biomass is also used in domestic settings. Organic bio-matter is usually placed in a bio-digester and allowed to undergo anaerobic digestion. Methane gas is produced. You need to capture this gas and purify it in order to get biogas which is used to cook and even heat water.

In most countries, this energy is mostly used in rural areas. This is because there are larger volumes of organic waste available. This is due to the presence of farms, livestock and more plantations than in urban areas.

It is also used in large educational institutions. This is because of the presence of many people hence more human waste. Human waste has a low concentration of energy. However, in large quantities, it is a great source.

Biomass Energy Advantages

A clean energy source

Biomass comes from plants which are organic. This means that they have a very low concentration of any harmful gasses or compounds. As much as it releases carbon dioxide it eventually captures it back for its own growth. This is very healthy for the environment.

Minimizes filled up of landfills

Biomass converts harmful wastes into useful energy. Landfills are open places to throw garbage. This garbage is usually burnt. However, sometimes it is not leaving a whole messy and dirty environment.

When this waste is used to produce energy, the landfills do not overflow hence creating a cleaner environment.

Biomass emissions are not harmful

When organic waste decomposes, it releases methane gas. But this gas is then recaptured to be used in producing biogas which is more or less a natural gas. The carbon dioxide released by biomass is harmless. It only becomes harmful when not controlled.

It is Renewable

Biomass is made from natural plants which grow all the time and can never be inadequate. This means that there will always be material or producing biomass energy.

Moreover, it is also made from animal waste. Animals, humans included, are always reproducing hence an endless supply of waste.

Reduces fossil fuel dependence

Fossil fuels are non-renewable sources of energy. E.g. coal, petroleum, etc. They contain impurities which are very harmful to the environment. They are the most used fuels by motorists and machines. However, these fuels are very expensive. Biomass energy is a great alternative to these fossil fuels

It’s versatile

Biomass is made up of many different materials. In fact, all these materials are living organisms. This means that there is no limit to the number of materials that can make biomass. Biomass sources can also be used to develop diverse products. For example, wood can also be used for building.


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