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Biomass Energy: Turning Organic Waste into Power

By: Hans Kohlsdorf

By Hans KohlsdorfPublished 3 months ago 3 min read
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These days, there are dozens of different buzzwords regarding clean energy and alternative fuel sources. Keeping up with them all can be challenging - and even harder to understand their meanings and implications.

One such term is biomass energy. Biomass energy has the potential to transform the way we view waste and power generation, and it does so by combining the two issues into one. In essence, biomass energy can potentially turn waste into a valuable source of energy. Let’s look at what this means.

What Is Biomass?

The first thing we need to know about biomass is what it is. Biomass is a renewable organic material, typically composed of plants, animals, or waste. A few examples of biomass are firewood, wood chips, agricultural crops, waste materials, municipal solid waste (paper, cotton, etc.), and animal waste.

The best part about biomass is that there are several ways to cultivate it. In many of the above examples, one would collect this waste rather than dispose of it. Alternatively, there are dedicated crops (switchgrass, willow, poplar trees) for energy production. These crops were strategically picked due to their fast-growing nature, making them the perfect source for biomass production.

Turning Biomass Into Energy

Naturally, there are several ways one can turn this biomass into energy. There are four preferred methods:

  1. Direct Combustion (heat production)
  2. Thermochemical Conversion (producing solids, gasses, and liquid fuels)
  3. Chemical Conversion (liquid fuel sources)
  4. Biological Conversion (producing liquid and gas fuels)

Out of the above methods, direct combustion is currently the most common method utilized. This is the most effective method for handling multiple biomass sources (such as the above waste examples). This conversion is hardly new - the steam turbine revolution was based on biomass energy; we simply forget to consider it that way.

Meanwhile, a thermochemical conversion is a bit more complicated, requiring the materials to be heated and pressurized. Typically, the lowest heat requirement for this process begins at 800 degrees (Fahrenheit).

Chemical conversions are another common practice, typically used to create biodiesel. In other words, it converts vegetable oils and animal fats into fatty acid methyl esters (FAME), which are then used to produce biodiesel.

The final method is the biological conversion process. Perhaps the best example of this is the creation of ethanol. The result has many names, including biomethane, biogas, and renewable natural gas.

The Benefits of Biomass Energy

In some ways, it is easy to see the potential environmental benefits of biomass energy. It is a renewable form of energy which utilizes organic matter. Likewise, this organic matter can even be a waste product, thus reducing the waste we create.

Due to the change in production methods, biomass energy can potentially have a significant (positive) impact on greenhouse gas emissions. It has a lower carbon footprint and can help humanity lessen its reliance on fossil fuels.

There’s no denying the powerful potential benefits of biomass energy. It can change the world if we take the time to perfect the methods and understand best practices. Best of all, it will enable us to tackle multiple problems simultaneously.

About Hans Kohlsdorf:

Hans Kohlsdorf is an expert in the energy sector and has done significant work regarding the impact and opportunities of technological changes. In Mexico’s energy sector, he supports private and public companies in increasing their efficiency and competing in a free market while offering people new and improved energy solutions. Hans is a big supporter of medium and large companies that want to enter the market with new technology and business models. Supporting new generation technologies or advising large consumers on energy efficiency E2M opens the sector to new opportunities.

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About the Creator

Hans Kohlsdorf

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  • Naveed 3 months ago

    Well done!

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