Biomass Energy



Biomass energy is one of the most promising forms of renewable energy in development. Biomass energy comes from the biological energy stored in plant material, and is used to produce electricity, various types of fuel, and many of the chemicals used to produce household products. Compared to the other forms of renewable energy, biomass is the most versatile. In the near future, factories, homes, and even automobiles could all be powered by biomass energy.

Unlike other forms of renewable energy which come from a single source, such as wind and solar energy, the term biomass refers to a collection of energy sources. Surprisingly, one of the oldest forms of biomass energy is wood. People have been burning wood to cook food and warm their homes for thousands of years. Modern sources of biomass include wood, grasses, and surplus food crops, such as corn and soybeans.

Most of the energy obtained from biomass comes from direct-firing power plants. Biomass power plants are similar to coal-burning plants, but instead of burning coal to create electricity, they burn biomass materials. In this process, a biomass material such as wood pulp is burned to produce steam. This steam is used to turn a turbine, which drives a generator.

One of the few disadvantages of biomass power plants is they produce carbon dioxide. Yet biomass energy is still better for the environment than fossil fuels. That is because fossil fuels release carbon dioxide that was stored millions of years ago, meaning it releases extra carbon dioxide. However, the carbon dioxide released by burning biomass material is canceled out by the carbon dioxide those plants absorbed during their growth.

Not only can biomass energy provide electricity, it can also be used to create liquid fuels for automobiles. The most common biofuels are ethanol and biodiesel. Ethanol is produced by fermenting the sugar stored in corn, which produces ethanol, a type of alcohol. In fact, the process used to turn corn into fuel is similar to the fermenting process used to make beer. Biodiesel is created by mixing methanol with various types of oil, from vegetable oil, to recycled cooking grease. Both types of fuels can be used as standalone fuels, or as additives in conventional fuels such as diesel and gasoline.

Fossil fuels will not last forever. To provide for our future energy needs, we must turn to renewable and clean forms of energy, such as biomass energy. 

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