Biomass Energy, The Most Clean Energy Source On Earth
Many people are confused about what biomass is since the term sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie. Well, biomass is simply defined as “plant material that can be used as energy.” And biomass has been around since the beginning of civilization. Even before the dawn of agriculture, biomass was widely used for energy. From early writings in ancient Mesoamerican cultures, we know that biomass has always been considered an important source of power.
Biomass refers to “biomimicry” or using nature to your advantage.
For instance, when you make electricity with solar energy, you’re using the sun to power a generator to produce electricity. Biomass is often used as a renewable energy resource. When biomass energy is burned, it produces heat like the wood from your campfire.
So how does biomass energy compare to fossil fuels?
Fossil fuel energy comes from fossils found within the earth’s crust. Fossil fuel burning in open air undergoes a chemical process that involves carbon dioxide (making it “fossil smoke”), hydrocarbon solvents (giving it “fossil fuel odor”), and nitrogen oxides (giving it “fossil fuel ash”). If we burn all the fossil fuels we have on Earth, by mid-century, there will be nothing left but carbon dioxide and water vapor, and nothing else. We’ll all be dead, so this is not the answer to the question posed in the title.
By contrast, biomass energy produces energy
from living things such as plants, microorganisms, rocks, soil, and woody material. Plants break down natural sugars (polysaccharides) to produce glucose (the sugar of life), and many types of microorganisms break down cellulose (a plant’s main component, used in plant stems and leaves). Together, these living things can power the planet just by eating enough of the sugars and starches produced by sunlight. If these renewable energy sources were properly harnessed, we could eliminate half our annual greenhouse gas emissions.
There are two major players in the renewable energy field
the first is biogas (or brown gas), and the second is methane gas (natural gas). Biogas production is more than environmentally viable: they are economically beneficial as well. One-third of the calories we consume each day are met by biomass energy, and methane can be used to provide large amounts of energy without burning any up our natural gas supplies.
Biomass energy can be tapped directly
into (and is often heavily subsidized by) the public grid. Unfortunately, because it is such raw material, there is currently no commercially available method that directly taps into and produces bioenergy for the home. However, there are several ways in which we can greatly reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, and this can be achieved through building windmills or solar panels to collect and store renewable energy from the environment. The resulting electricity would greatly reduce the enormous greenhouse gas emissions currently being pumped into our atmosphere. It seems that switching to more earth-friendly and renewable forms of energy is one of the most viable options for reducing our carbon footprint.