Biomass Energy. Alternative Energy. Tanner Lagace, Katie Brown, Erin Burke, Molly Hay . What is Biomass?.
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Biomass Energy Alternative Energy Tanner Lagace, Katie Brown, Erin Burke, Molly Hay
What is Biomass? Harnessing natural energy has become the focus of scientists in an effort to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and find a safer and cleaner alternative source of energy.Biomass can be understood as renewable organic material that can be used to produce energy. Biomass is ideal because it is renewable. There is no need to drill for it and transporting it does not provide the same risk factor that is involved in transporting fossil fuel.
How Biomass is Produced Producing fuel and energy from biomass is complex but corresponds directly to photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a chemical reaction in which carbon dioxide and water are transformed into oxygen gas and glucose through the input of energy from the sun. Plants become autotrophs because they use glucose as a source of energy rather than fossil fuels. Biomass is manufactured from crops, wood, manure, land fill gasses and alcohol fuels. Biomass can be converted to other useable forms of energy, such as methane gas or transportation fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel. Crops like corn and sugar cane can be fermented to produce ethanol. Biodiesel, another transportation fuel, can be produced from left-over food products like vegetable oils and animal fats.
How Energy is Transported to Consumer The chemical energy in biomass is released as heat when burned. If you have a fireplace, the wood you burn in it is a biomass fuel. Wood waste or garbage can be burned to produce steam for making electricity, or to provide heat to industries and homes. In the United States, wood and wood waste (bark, sawdust, wood chips, wood scrap, and paper mill residues) provide about 2% of the energy we use today. About 80% of the wood and wood waste fuel used in the United States is consumed by industry, electric power producers, and commercial businesses. The rest, mainly wood, is used in homes for heating and cooking. Many manufacturing plants in the wood and paper products industry use wood waste to produce their own steam and electricity. This saves these companies money because they don't have to dispose of their waste products and they don't have to buy as much electricity.
How the Consumer will use Biomass Consumers will use Biomass energy for electricity, to heat their homes and industries, and as fuel for their vehicles. Today, petroleum is refined to make chemical feedstocks used in thousands of products. Many of these chemical feedstocks can be produced from biomass to then manufacture clothing, plastics, lubricants, and other products. Substituting biomass feedstocks for petroleum not only decreases U.S. reliance on foreign petroleum imports, but these products are often more environmentally benign than their petroleum-derived counterparts and it supports rural economies.
Production & Costs of Biomass The Production of Biomass relies heavily on farmers. Farmers are expected to be encouraged to plant energy crops in large amounts. Switchgrass has been found to be excellent as a biofuel and, since it is a native plant and requires little to encourage growth it can be planted in areas that do not grow other crops very well. It's also excellent to prevent erosion and runoff. At the present time research is being done on fast-growing, cost-efficient trees as well as alfalfa and other such crops. Cottonwoods have been found to be excellent as they grow very fast and can be harvested and re-planted quickly. Corn is an especially high energy producing crop. The United States has a large supply of timber, especially in the North West Area. When these trees are harvested they, by law, are immediately re-planted. Within a few years the forest is full of tress again. Tree farms are being encouraged and many small acreages are planting them.
Municipal Waste has been developed in the past few years as a source of Ethanol. The public, in most cities, is required to separate their papers and other such products in a separate container for collection. This, in turn, is sorted and the appropriate items used to make Ethanol gas. Biomass Production enables farmers to have a profitable crop, while assisting in producing low cost, efficient energy. Today, in the United States, it is estimated that several thousands of crop left overs go unused. If this could be turned into energy it would supply a huge amount of electrical power at a very inexpensive cost.
Biomass Efficiencies • Unlike any other kind of energy biomass takes time to grow. • Using biomass energy usually means combustion, to generate heat for peoples homes. • People have developed biomass pellet fuels. • Some companies have developed and engine that runs on heat. One company built a biomass demonstration that runs on the pellets.
Current Developments The U.S. economy uses biomass-based materials as a source of energy in many ways. Wood and agricultural residues are burned as a fuel for cogeneration of steam and electricity in the industrial sector. Biomass is used for power generation in the electricity sector and for space heating in residential and commercial buildings. The Energy Information Administration’s estimation of biomass resources shows that there are 590 million wet tons of biomass available in the United States on an annual basis; 20 million wet tons (enough to supply about 3 gigawatts of capacity) are available today at prices of $1.25 per million Btu or less.
Future Developments As those two major oil spills in the United States have evidenced, there is a tremendous need to find alternative sources of fuel. Biomass is ideal because it is renewable. Biomass provides a cleaner and renewable source of energy as well as the ability to reduce dependence on oil. More uses are being discovered as research continues in this amazing field with the current emphasis being placed on the fact that Biomass is not only affordable but is also a safer alternative fuel. With this in mind, new bio fuels will become more easily available in the future which in turn provides a solution to some of the current ecological and atmospheric concerns.
Environmental Impacts • The most obvious environmental benefit of biomass is the displacement of fossil fuel usage and the reduction of air pollution and acid rain. • -Biomass can also have a negative impact on the Environment. Biomass power raises more serious environmental issues than any other renewable resource. • -Deforestation is one of the problems. Clear cutting of trees leads to massive deforestation. • -Also, by removing Biomass for energy, it allows for less CO2 to be removed through photosynthesis of plants. • -There have also been concerns about the impacts of using land to grow energy crops. • -Combustion of biomass and biomass-derived fuels produces air pollution.
United Kingdom Partnership In January 2005, Mount Wachusett Community College hosted a nine member team of biomass energy and forestry experts from the United Kingdom. Team members were selected to bring together a range of relevant expertise and background. The task of the mission was to identify whether there are procedures or equipment being used in the USA that could help to make the harvesting, handling, processing, distribution, delivery or storage of wood for heating and energy applications more efficient and/or cost effective in the UK.
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