• Biomass, a renewable energy source, is biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms, such as wood, waste, and alcohol fuels
• Biomass is commonly plant matter grown to generate electricity or produce, heat. For example, forest residues (such as dead trees branches and tree stumps), clippings and wood chips may lie used as biomass.
• Biomass also includes plant or animal matter used for production of fibers or chemicals: Biomass may also include biodegradable wastes that ‘ burnt as fuel. It excludes organic material such as fossil fuel which has been transformed by geological processes into substances such as coal or petroleum.
• Industrial biomass can ‘be grown from numerous types of plant, including miscanthus, switchgrass. Hemp, corn, poplar, willow, sorghum, sugarcane, and a variety or tree species, ranging from eucalyptus palm (palm oil).
• Although fossil fuels have their origin in ancient biomass, they are not considered biomass by the generally accepted definition because they contain carbon that has been “out” of the carbon cycle fora very long time. Their combustion therefore disturbs the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere.
• Biomass energy is derived from three distinct energy sources : wood, waste, and alcohol fuels.
1) Wood energy is derived both froth direct use of harvested wood as a fuel and from Wood waste streams. The largest source of energy from wood is pulping liquor or “black liquor”, a waste product from processes of the pulp, paper and paperboard industry.
2) Waste energy is the second largest source of biomass energy. The main contributors of waste energy are municipal solid waste (MSW), manufacturing waste, and landfill gas.
3) Biomass alcohol fuel, or ethanol, is derived almost exclusively from corn. Its principal use it as an oxygenate in gasoline. For biomass fuels, the most common feedstocks used today are corn grain (for ethanol) and soybeans (for biodiesel).
Biomass can be converted to other usable forms of energy like methane gas or transportation fuels like ethanol and bio-diesel. Methane gas is the main ingredient of natural gas. Smelly stuff, like rotting garbage, and agricultural and human waste, release methane gas also called “landfill gas” or “bio-gas”.
Biomass to liquids (BTLs):- Crops like corn and sugar cane can be fermented to produce the transportation fuel, ethanol. Bio-diesel, another transportation fuel, can be produced from left-aver food products like vegetable oils and animal fats. Also, Biomass to liquids (BTLs) and cellulosic ethanol are still under research. In China, more than 8 million bio-gas digesters convert manure and other organic wastes into methane. In rural India also, bio-gas plants are a popular source of energy.
How is biomass converted into energy?
1) Burning: Burning stuff like wood, waste and other plant matter releases stored chemical energy in the form of heat, which can be used to turn shafts to produce electricity. Let’s see this simple illustration of how biomass is used to generate electricity.
2) Decomposition: Things that can rot, like garbage, human and animal waste, dead animals and the like can be left to rot, releasing a gas called biogas (also known as methane gas or landfill gas). Methane can be captured by a machine called Microturbine and converted into electricity. Sometimes, animal waste (poop) can also be converted into methane by a machine called ‘Anaerobic Digester’.
3) Fermentation: Ethanol can be produced from crops with lots of sugars, like corn and sugarcane. The process used to produce ethanol is called gasification.
4) Biorefinery: develop technology for biorefineries that will convert biomass into a range of valuable fuels, chemicals, materials, and products-much like oil refineries and petrochemical plants do.
Advanced technologies for the biomass energy applications:
• Biofuels – Converting biomass into liquid fuels for transportation
• Biopower – Burning biomass directly, or converting it into gaseous or liquid fuels that burn more efficiently, to generate electricity
• Bioproducts – Converting biomass into chemicals for making plastics and other products that typically are made from petroleum.
Benefits of Biomass Energy:-
1) No Harmful Emissions:- Biomass energy, for the most part, creates no harmful carbon dioxide emissions.
2) Clean Energy: It does release carbon dioxide but captures carbon dioxide for its own growth.
3) Abundant and Renewable: Since they come from living sources, and life is cyclical, these products potentially never run out, so long as there is something living on earth and there is someone there to turn that living things components and waste products into energy.
4) Reduce Dependency on Fossil Fuels: It has developed as an alternate source of fuel for many homeowners and have helped them to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels.
5) Reduce Landfills: Another benefit of this energy is that it can take waste that is harmful to the environment and turn it into something useful. For instance, garbage as landfill can, at least partially, be burned to create useable biomass energy.
6) Can be Used to Create Different Products: Biomass energy is also versatile, as different forms of organic matter can be used to create different products. Ethanol and similar fuels can be made from corn and other crops. With so many living things on the planet, there is no limit to how many ways it can be found and used.
Disadvantages of Biomass Energy:-
1) Expensive: Firstly, its expensive. Living things are expensive to care for, feed, and house, and all of that has to be considered when trying to use waste products from animals for fuel.
2) Inefficient as Compared to Fossil Fuels: Ethanol, as a biodiesel is terribly inefficient when compared to gasoline.
3) Harmful to Environment: Using animal and human waste to power engines may save on carbon dioxide emissions, but it increases methane gases, which are also harmful to the Earth’s ozone layer.
4) Consume More Fuel: Using trees and tree products to power machines is inefficient as well.
5) Require More Land: Combustion of biomass products require some land where they can easily be burnt.
Biomass Energy in India
About 32% of the total primary energy use in the country is still derived from biomass and more than 70% of the country’s population depends upon it for its energy needs. The current availability of biomass in India is estimated at about 500 millions metric tones per year. India has over 5,800 MW biomass based power plants comprising 4,760 MW grid connected and 927 MW off-grid power plants.
Bottlenecks faced by the Indian Biomass Industry
1) Lack of adequate policy framework and effective financing mechanisms
2) Lack of effective regulatory framework
3) Lack of technical capacity
4) Absence of effective information dissemination
5) Limited successful commercial demonstration model experience
Government incentives and Subsidies for Biomass Energy Production
• The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) provides Central Financial Assistance (CFA) in the form of capital subsidy and financial incentives to the biomass energy projects in India.
• Biomass Energy for Rural India (BERI) Project sponsored by GEF-UNDP, ICEF. The Project aims at developing and implementing a bio-energy technology package to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and to promote a sustainable and participatory approach in meeting rural energy needs.