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13 Advantages and Disadvantages of Biomass Energy

Biomass energy largely gets ignored over more desirable renewable energy sources like solar and wind. However, I’m here to tell you that it plays a huge role in not only providing carbon-neutral energy but in getting rid of waste.

This energy source continues to grow on a year-by-year basis, especially given how a lot of waste can be used as fuel. For example, there are restaurants that reuse cooking oil and grease as biofuel.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of biomass energy.

What is Biomass Energy?

Biomass energy is a renewable energy source that is produced by burning organic materials. These include wood and wood processing waste, agricultural crops and their waste material, paper waste, other biogenic sources, animal manure, and human sewage.

If it’s from an organic source, it’s a biomass fuel. This puts recycling on a whole other level.

Advantages of Biomass Energy

1. A Never-Ending Supply of Fuel

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Humanity produces a huge amount of organic waste. In fact, every American throws away 1,200 pounds of organic waste each year. Thus, there is absolutely no possibility of us running out of biofuel.

2. True Energy Independence

Because every society creates biomass refuse in one form or another, this form of energy would offer true independence from other nations. The nation would be able to supply its own biomass to keep the plant in use.

This would drastically reduce the impact something like Russia has on the world stage in terms of oil production, for example.

3. It’s Less Expensive than Fossil Fuel

Unlike fossil fuel sources that need to drill or mine for the raw resource, process it to become usable, and build huge plants to generate the energy, biomass energy is far cheaper because the fuel is generated naturally.

From wood refuse during construction to various forms of sewage and oils, biomass energy thrives on what most people just throw away or flush.

4. It’s Carbon-Neutral

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of biofuel is that it is carbon-neutral. Organic material does release carbon when it is burned, however, this is the same amount of carbon it absorbed in its lifetime.

Thus no new carbon is emitted.

5. Discourages Burning Crops

One of the main reasons fires began in the Amazon rainforest was because farmers would use fire to clear out old crops. Instead, they should be collecting these plants and sending them to biomass plants. Thus, it discourages reckless behavior.

And the sheer volume these farms need would ensure a massive source of fuel.

6. Reduces the Need for Landfills

Of course, there will still be things we throw away that wind up in a landfill. However, biomass energy production would impact how much square footage that landfill would require.

Not to mention how reducing trash lowers the carbon footprint of needing trash collection trucks.

7. Fuels Can Be Grown Virtually Anywhere

A great benefit of using biomass energy is that crops specifically grown for this purpose can be grown almost anywhere. By placing a plant near its source of fuel, we’ll also cut down on emissions from transportation.

Can you imagine how much energy is lost at your local landfill? What if there was a bioenergy plant nearby?

Disadvantages of Biomass Energy

1. Methane Emissions

While Biomass is carbon-neutral, it is not methane-neutral. Unfortunately, methane emissions are more destructive than carbon. In fact, it’s 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

This has led to some pointing at the methane from “cow farts” being a concern for environmentalists. That’s actually a story for another day, though.

2. Fossil Fuels are More Efficient

Fossil fuels are far more efficient at producing energy than biofuels like ethanol. And it’s due to this reason that fossil fuels have gained so much popularity over the years.

However, now that environmental impact is a concern, the story is changing.

3. Deforestation Is A Concern

In many areas around the world, raw waste is not the only fuel. Instead, some countries will actually clear out forests for lumber to burn. This can exacerbate climate change as deforestation continues.

However, there is enough other waste products for this to not be an option in most areas around the world. Wood isn’t the only biofuel available.

4. Getting Waste to the Proper Facilities Isn’t Easy

Collecting some of the waste that is usable and plentiful is not easy. After all, a lot of it is just thrown in the garbage, similar to recycling. Currently, we are lacking in proper infrastructure to support biomass energy on a grand scale.

Thus, getting some of the more common waste products from the general population can prove difficult.

5. Biomass Energy is Initially More Expensive

Although I pointed out how biomass is less expensive than mining coal or drilling oil. However, the plant itself is a bit more expensive to get up and running.

The costs to transport and store biofuel also has the potential to be higher than other forms of green energy.

It’s much like how you’ll save money over the long-term if you can afford to install solar panels on your house today. It’s a lot of money upfront, but the 25-year return makes the investment far worth the cost.

6. Increased Water Usage for “Crops”

A major concern from some is how some areas may need to grow “crops” for continuous biomass fuel. This means increasing water use to grow those plants so they can be burned for energy production.

As much of the world is facing dangerous levels of drought, biomass energy may not be a good option in those areas.

On the other hand, it also depends on whether they will use biofuels like trees or focus on reusing oils and sewage. If the latter is invested, then there would be little to no impact on water concerns.

Biomass Energy Is Here to Stay

Biomass energy has been gaining significant ground over the years and is one of the oldest sources of energy in human history. And it is not going anywhere in the future. In fact, it is becoming more popular each year.

However, due to some of its shortcomings, other renewable sources like wind and solar are more desirable.

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Robert Giaquinto

Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.

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