Over 100 years ago, wood provided almost 90% of our energy needs. The convenience and low prices of fossil fuels, however, gave way to energy derived primarily from coal and oil. By the late 1990′s, the United States imported more oil and refined products from other countries than we produced.
But society is now recognizing the negative effects of fossil fuel consumption. Greenhouse gases, global warming, energy dependence, wildfires and carbon emissions are just some of the forces paving the way for renewable energy sources once again, like biomass. And with pellet fuel, renewables are far more convenient.
Note: Europe consumes approximately 13 million tons of wood pellets each year. USA consumes approximately 2.5 million tons. Europe utilizes central heating and cooling with pellets.
What is Biomass Renewable Energy?
Biomass is any organic material made from plants and animals that contains energy from the sun. It is renewable because it can be grown and re-grown continuously.
To release energy, biomass can be burned, converted to gas or fermented for transportation fuel. Although some carbon is released, new biomass crops capture nearly equivalent amounts of these emissions, making it a carbon-neutral renewable energy.
The most common form of biomass is wood. It’s plentiful, renewable and can be used to produce sustainable, reliable energy. Best of all, the technology to refine it into fuel is proven and available now.
Converting Biomass into Thermal and Electrical Energy
Biomass resources are renewable, but they are not unlimited. We must be prudent in how we utilize renewable resources, using as much raw material as possible so that nothing is wasted, and efficiently converting it into the highest amount of energy.
Biomass can be used for methane gas, transportation fuels such as ethanol and bio-diesel, electrical generation and thermal heat.
- Biofuels use only part of the plant, resulting in a large amount of unused resources. Biofuels are also typically blended with petroleum-based fossil fuels.
- Bioelectricity consumes the entire material, but converts at only 21% efficiency.
- Biothermal energy consumes the entire raw material and converts at 80 – 90% efficiency.
With heat consuming 1/3 of our nation’s energy, it’s time to use biomass for thermal energy as well as use other efficient, renewable resources for electrical energy and fuels.