Biomass Energy: What are the Biomass Advantages and the Biomass Disadvantages

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Biomass Energy: What are the Biomass Advantages and the Biomass Disadvantages

When it comes to biomass energy, of course there are biomass advantages and biomass disadvantages. There are distinct good and bad qualities of using this alternative fuel for energy. There are several differing opinions of course, some of which rest upon financial considerations and may be biased, so we will try and eliminate all the biased schools of thought on this hot topic.

Biomass Energy Advantages and Disadvantages

Biomass Advantages

1.) When this is used as a fuel, it reduces the need for fossil fuels for the production of heat, steam, and electricity for the grid, including residential, industrial and agricultural uses.

2.) This fuel is one of the most abundant resources in the world, and it is always available and can be reproduced, seeing that it is a renewable energy source. With proper conservation practices, any plants, shrubs or trees that are harvested to produce energy can be replaced over a period of time.

3.) Another of the biomass advantages is agricultural wastes, like corn stalks can be used as fuel to add a secondary product and added value to an agricultural crop.

4.) Crops which are grown for biomass help to produce more oxygen and soak up more carbon dioxide (CO2).

5.) Using waste materials for biomass energy can help to reduce landfill size and waste.

6.) With the use of this promising fuel alternative, we can be less dependent on foreign oil.

7.) This natural substance can be easily converted into a concentrated, high energy fuels like alcohols or type of gas from is natural form with processing, and are cleaner burning than fossil fuels.

8.) The costs to use these as fuels and alternative energy sources are low compared to those of searching for, and the extraction of fossil fuels, especially now that all the ‘easy’ oil is gone. The costs can be further controlled by deliberately growing crops for use in the production of these alternative fuels. In certain instances, the growing of, and harvesting of biomass crops is less expensive than growing food crops.

9.) Areas of unused land can be put to good use for biomass crops and help to create jobs in rural areas, thus reducing unemployment rates. New jobs may also be created for collecting the crops or other types of it, including dead plants and animals, and manure or dung, which can be composted along with other solid waste generated by our daily activities, and become a major source of methane gas.

Biomass Disadvantages

1.) Greenhouse gases produced by the burning of these fuels, and we must use exhaust gas cleaning technologies to biomass energy plants to make them eco-friendly and safe. The installation of this cleaning technology may make this type of alternative energy economically unfeasible, at least for the time being.

2.) Another of the biomass disadvantages is that it can also be expensive to collect, harvest and store raw materials to use for this energy source. particularly when considering the massive quantities needed in comparison to traditional fossil fuels.

3.) Large scale crop production and land use for use in this alternative energy source, and include deforestation, and the distinct possibility to reduce food crops in order to grow more biomass crops.

4.) The use of food crops for fuels like ethanol may be another issue, and ethanol ethics goes into the details of using corn crops to produce ethanol, which raises the food prices for not only humans, but for animal feed.

5.) It will take more energy to plant, cultivate, and harvest the crops and trees than it would be worth to obtain a net energy gain. It also takes up more water and uses more fossil fuels to make fertilizers for the crops, and also in the planting and harvesting of them.

6.) Pollutants from woodsmoke include small particulates, carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NO, NO2), formaldehyde, acrolein, benzene, toluene, acetic acid, styrene, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and methane. Each year, according to the EPA, residential wood smoke alone contributes over 420,000 tons of fine particles throughout the country, primarily of course during the winter months. Nationally, residential wood burning also accounts for 44 percent of total stationary and mobile polycyclic organic matter
(POM) emissions and 62 percent of the 7-polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), which are probable human carcinogens and are of great concern to EPA.

There is also a good deal of public concern about the use of older technology hydronic heaters, more commonly known as outdoor wood boilers, and their recent trend of growing use, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest. There are a number of communities where residential wood smoke can increase particle pollution to levels that cause significant health concerns such as asthma attacks, heart attacks, and even premature death.

7.) If the burned vegetation is not regrown, the carbon dioxide accumulated by the vegetation remains in the atmosphere. If the vegetation regrows, then the carbon dioxide is eventually removed by the new vegetation, however, other emissions remain in the atmosphere. Combustion particulates affect the global radiation budget and the climate. According to NASA, as carbon monoxide, methane, nonmethane hydrocarbons, and nitric oxide are all chemically active gases that affect the oxidizing capacity of the atmosphere and lead to the photo-chemical production of ozone in the troposphere. Methyl chloride is a source of chlorine to the atmosphere, which leads to the chemical destruction of the stratospheric ozone. Recently it was discovered that biomass burning is also an important global source of atmospheric bromine in the form of methyl bromine. Bromine leads to the chemical destruction of ozone in the stratosphere and is about 40 times more efficient in that process than is chlorine on a molecule-for-molecule basis.

8.) Radioactive Cesium, “With the exception of some very low California readings, all measurements of wood ash with fallout cesium exceeded – some by 100 times or more – the levels of radioactive cesium that may be released from nuclear plants (about 100 picocuries per kilogram of sludge). Wood ash cesium levels were especially high in the Northeast,” according to the Science News, 1991. See more on radiation waste.

When it comes to this alternative energy source, the biomass disadvantages seem to outweigh the biomass advantages, at least for the current technology that exists. It tends to work well on a location basis, that is, when the fuel source is near the biomass facility, and the two can work in conjunction and enhance each other. More research is needed before we jump in full force like we did with coal and oil at this time. We are trying to improve our environment here, not create further problems. We also need to remember that although it is a renewable resource, we must also act responsibly when using this resource, and make sure we replace at least the same amount that we use, or it could create a whole new world of issues as well. As technologies and research advance, biomass energy may be at the forefront of our energy needs, as the biomass advantages overcome the biomass disadvantages.

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