Energy From Biomass Burning: Feasible or Not?

One Example:

The McNeil Generating Station in Burlington, Vermont, generates 50 MW of electric power for the city's residents using wood from nearby forestry operations-forest thinnings and discarded wood pallets. The gasifier is capable of converting 200 tons of wood chips per day into a gaseous fuel that is currently fed directly into the McNeil Station boiler, enough to generate 8 MW.

Biomass converting organic matter into energy. The energy source is stored solar energy. Heating via woodburning is an example of using biomass as an energy source.

In general, biomass burning is perceived as being a sensible form of energy generation.

Biomass power (biomass-to-electricity power generation) is a proven electricity generating option in the United States.

All of today's biomass power capacity is based on mature, direct combustion boiler/steam turbine technology. The average size of existing biomass power plants is 20 MW (the largest approaches 75 MW), and the industry average biomass-to-electricity efficiency is 20 percent.

Advanced technologies:

Gasification technology can convert biomass into a liquid or gas that can be burned in a combustion turbine. Gasification technology has not been fully developed and has not yet been demonstrated in commercial power plants. However, it has some great potential advantages including a low capital cost, high efficiency even in small plant sizes, and low pollution emissions.

A Case Study in BioMass Cogeneartion

Okay, let's look at this with a critical eye:

Some common forms of biomass from which energy can be extracted:

Most biomass is made of Carbon and Hydrogen (e.g. Methane = CH4)

Half of the World cooks with wood. In developing countries, biomass accounts for about 70% of the energy generated

In the US, there are now wood waste power plants that have a capacity of 80--100 Megawatts; approximately 10% of the capacity of a coal fired steam plant.

Production Line Strategies for increasing the power yield:

Example Calculation:

Only 5% of a plant's total biomass is suitable for food. There are two alternatives for the remaining 95%:

Conversion of biomass into fuel is somewhat inefficient and costly. At present, its best to just burn the biomass in electrical power plants.

Conversion of corn into fuel:

At the moment the production of ethanol and methanol is subsidized

In other countries, the econmics of biomass conversion are more viable:

Converting biomass to Methane:

But, BE WARNED, current agriculturual processes have a heavy reliance on fossil fuels and this reliance is often hidden

Current Air Pollution from BioMass Burning:

Other Problems: