The U.S. first saw the inception of renewable energy practices in the form of hydropower plants that produced electricity in the late 1800s. Before that, wood was highly used as a main renewable resource up until the mid-1800s.

From wood burning to hydropower and everything in between, energy consumption patterns have shifted drastically since then.

Renewable energy has evolved from being a distant, vague idea to a more accepted and urgently needed form of energy consumption. 

As options for renewable energy keep expanding, one particular form of sustainable energy worth noting is that of biomass energy. Curious to know more? Continue reading for a quick overview of this beneficial renewable resource.

What Is Biomass Energy?

In short, biomass energy is the energy produced as a result of photosynthesis vis-à-vis a variety of feedstock sources such as:

  • Wood residues like wood pellets or chips
  • Agricultural residue from crops such as sugar cane or hemp
  • Municipal waste such as paper or wool products
  • Manure from animals or sewage from humans

Essentially, it is plant and animal-based renewable materials utilized as a fuel product. The energy that comes from the burning of organic materials, such as the ones above, results in heat and electricity.

Converting Biomass to Energy

There are a few processes used to complete the conversion of biomass feedstocks into energy. Such processes might include burning, otherwise known as direct combustion to generate heat. Other conversion methods include thermochemical, chemical, or biological processes to produce energy.

The most common form is thermal conversion. The biomass gets dried, heated, and then burned.

Torrefaction is the first step in this process where the biomass gets heated to such a degree that it dries out completely. The resulting dried material then gets compressed into what is called a briquette.

These briquettes then get burned directly. The resulting steam that gets produced during the process of firing can power turbines, which turns generators, thus resulting in produced electricity.

Benefits of Biomass as an Energy Source

What exactly are the benefits of using it as fuel and power production? Let’s take a look at what a few of these benefits look like:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced
  • A decrease in foreign oil dependence
  • Provides sustainable support for the agriculture industry
  • Provides a clean renewable source of energy
  • Biomass can be harvested as needed

One of the most straightforward benefits might just be that the biomass from plants can be regrown relatively quickly and managed sustainably, providing a way to offset carbon emissions.

A Renewable Future

We’ve been using biomass to cook and keep warm since the age of cavemen. Since then, new organic compounds have been found as useful fuel sources from algae to industrial waste. Biomass energy brings a whole host of benefits to the renewable energy table.

Hopefully, the above information has been helpful in providing an overview of what biomass is and how the renewable energy sector benefits from its use.

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