Biomass power plants
Biomass power plants are usually 10 to 40 MW in size which is much smaller than coal power plants at 500 to 2.000 MW. Most of the world’s biomass power plants use direct combustion to produce renewable and low carbon electricity. Existing coal power plants can be readily converted to replace up to 20% of their coal with biomass fuels; however, their current boiler technology cannot accommodate 100% biomass.
Biomass electricity offers a realistic and sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. Biomass electricity provides steady, reliable base power like fossil fuels. Biomass electricity complements solar and wind which provide fluctuating electricity and require fast reacting backup power to compensate for their fluctuations.
Direct combustion (or “direct-fired”) systems burn biomass in boilers to produce high pressure steam. The steam turns a turbine connected to a generator-the same kind of steam-electric generator used in fossil fuel power plants. As the turbine rotates, the generator turns, and electricity is produced. This is the simplest and oldest method of generating electricity from biomass.
Today, biomass electricity is generated using agricultural and forestry residue such as wood pellets from sawdust and wood bark, sugarcane bagasse, which is the left over fibres after the juice is squeezed out of the cane, corn stover, wheat straw, and rice husk and many other agricultural residues such as olive.
Europe has mandated that coal-fired power plants reduce their carbon emissions and many are replacing. To assure that their power plants have a constant and steady supply of biomass, energy companies establish near the source of the residues. The long-term success of a biomass energy facility depends on having a secure long-term source of the biomass.
Advantages of Biomass
A lot of the waste that we produce is biodegradable and plant matter, which could be put to more efficient use elsewhere. Biomass energy is often able to make use of the waste that would often sit and fester in landfills. This reduces the effects that such sites have on the natural environment, which are particularly pronounced in regards to contaminating local habitats and damaging wildlife. This reduction in waste also opens up more areas for humans to live in, as less space is needed to create landfills.
Biomass fuels are abundant. Much like with the sun and water, they can be found practically anywhere on the planet. This abundance means that we will not run into the issues that we currently have with fossil fuels when it comes to availability.
Biomass energy is also amongst the most versatile alternatives available. It can be converted into many different fuel sources, each of which has varied applications.
For example, biomass can be processed to create biodiesel for vehicles, but it can also be used to farm methane gas and a range of other biofuels.
Furthermore, wood can be used to generate heat, while the steam produced by some forms of biomass can also power turbines to create energy.
Sustainable Energy Source
Renewable energy sources are those that can be replenished after use. As a lot of biomass fuels – such as wood and plant life – can be regrown, it is a truly renewable source. As long as efforts are made to maintain the resources used for biomass energy through dedicated replanting and replenishment, it is a long-term fuel source.
The amount of carbon that is released into the atmosphere is a major contributor to climate change. Biomass reduces this because the fuel is a natural part of the carbon cycle, unlike oil and other fossil fuels. The only carbon that is released into the atmosphere from biomass fuels is what was absorbed by the plants during their lifecycles. As these plants are replenished, the new ones then absorb the same amount of carbon again, creating a neutrality that sees no new carbon created. This makes biomass fuels exceptionally clean.