Biomass energy is all about using energy from living things. And, this is in existence for the longest time. In earlier times, it started with using wood fires for cooking, Additionally, it was used to keep warm. The organic material from living organisms like plants and animals is used for energy, which is a good replacement for fossil fuels. We all know how fossil fuels are non-renewable, so it is better to look for alternatives. One such alternative is biomass energy, which can be used for power production and fuels. With this, let’s dive into the topic and learn about its benefits and drawbacks.
Advantages of Biomass Energy
Did you know, various sectors produce waste that can be converted into electricity? This is what biomass energy is all about. Here are a few advantages of biomass energy.
1. Renewable source of energy
It is a major benefit that Biomass energy is a renewable source of energy. We produce waste continuously, so we know that there are unlimited organic materials that can be used to produce biomass energy. A few examples of biomass energy are wood and crop residue. Wood can either come from forests or logging residues, which are then burnt to generate heat. And, the crop residue and energy crops are used to produce energy.
2. Alternative to fossil fuels
We discussed how biomass energy is a renewable source of energy, which makes it is clear that it can be used as an alternative to fossil fuels. Fossil fuels can be quite a burden to the environment. They release huge amounts of carbon dioxide, polluting the atmosphere. Besides this, they are non-renewable so considering their limited supply it is better to opt for biomass energy which serves as its alternative.
3. Requires less investment
Investment is needed in energy production, but if you compare fossil fuels and biomass energy, you will see that fossil fuel production can be quite expensive. The reason being you need expensive equipment and technology. Whereas, with biomass energy production, you can generate higher profits with less investment. This is why the manufacturers and producers of biomass energy are able to maximize profits using biomass technology.
We all are aware of how deadly higher carbon emission is for the atmosphere. So biomass energy being carbon-neutral is quite an advantage. This is how it works, firstly trees take in carbon dioxide from the environment. Then, whether these trees decompose naturally or are burned, they release the same amount of carbon dioxide into the environment in the form of biomass. So, if new trees are planted, they take the carbon dioxide from the environment, and the cycle keeps repeating.
5. Reduces garbage
Since we are using biomass waste, there is a reduction in the amount of garbage dumped in the landfills. This is good considering that the cost of landfill disposal can be quite high. With biomass technology, we are starting to realize the importance of biomass waste as a source for generating material and energy. This allows meeting the pollution control standards as the waste is disposed of in a controlled manner. Furthermore, since the amount of waste on the landfill is reduced, the area required for their disposal is also reduced.
Disadvantages of Biomass Energy
We saw the good side of using biomass energy, now let’s take a look at what lies on the flip side. Here are a few disadvantages of biomass energy.
1. Lacks efficiency
There are large amounts of water per unit of weight in biomass, which is why it is not as efficient as fossil fuels. Additionally, it has low energy and bulk densities, making it an inefficient source of power. And, in order to increase the efficiency of biofuels, it is fortified with fossil fuels, which defeats the purpose of using biofuels in the first place. Even though in small amounts, fossil fuels need to be combined with biofuels to make them more efficient.
2. Impacts environment
No doubt, we can produce heat and electricity from biomass, but still, we cannot neglect the adverse impact it has on the environment. When biochemical processes are used to convert organic material into fuels, there are solid as well as water waste generated, which negatively impacts the environment. In addition to this, air pollutants are produced and released into the atmosphere. Some of these air pollutants are hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide. Furthermore, it worsens the climate crisis and harms vulnerable communities.
3. Clearing of forested lands
We saw how wood, the most common source of biomass energy, is used on a large scale. So it comes naturally that in order to obtain wood, forested lands are cleared, leading to deforestation. Forest is the habitat of numerous plants and animals, and the companies clearing forests end up harming their natural environment. In the long run, it can prove to be detrimental. Moreover, the soil needs biomass for fertilization, if organic materials are cleared then it impacts the soil health.
4. Additional costs
Even though biomass energy production is less expensive than fossil fuels production, there are still additional costs. Firstly, the biomass energy plants are set up, then there are extraction, transportation, and storage costs. Unlike fossil fuels, there are no massive costs in drilling into the earth, but the overall cost of biomass is subjective. The costs depend on the type of biomass you are selecting, and what tools and techniques are used to convert it into electricity.
5. Requires space
The set-up of biomass energy plants requires a lot of space. Also, several factors need to be considered while placing these plants. It must be ensured that the biomass energy plants are located near the source of biomass. So, it is a requirement considering if the biomass energy plants are not in proximity to the source, then it will incur heavy transportation as well as storage costs. It puts limitations on the selection of area for plant’s set up. Besides this, when the organic matter is grown, it takes more space, and not always these spaces are readily available.