Biomass: Reliable, Mature, Clean.
Biomass energy production is the process by which organic material is burned, either directly to produce steam, or as a liquified fuel similar to petroleum, in order to produce energy. The biomass industry is roughly one fifth the value of the worldwide petroleum industry, (Campbell, 2009) but as the world begins to look for renewable energy types, it has gained a lot of traction even in developed countries that had progressed beyond biomass in their quests for more efficient fuels. Despite the challenges faced by biomass producers, studies show that energy produced from biomass may be the key to our future, because it is more reliable source of electricity compared to wind and solar, its production is based on mature technology and its emissions are lower than for fossil fuels.
The United States currently gets about 1.5 percent of its total energy needs from biomass. (UCS, 2010) Biomass in the United States is an almost untapped resource, because this country has spent most of its energy history with cheap and widely available coal and oil. There has been little incentive to develop biomass conversion and utilization technology, but there have been recent pushes to develop sustainable energy programs and biomass energy is considered sustainable. Technically, biomass energy is essentially the same as oil and coal, just not quite as old. Oil and coal are made from the same basic processes of organic material decaying over time, but it takes millions of years. Biomass is a more reliable form of energy when compared to the other main alternative energy sources of wind and solar energy. Biomass is a stored fuel that can be used at any time, regardless of climatic conditions. Meanwhile, solar and wind energy require very specific environmental conditions before they begin to be efficient. Wind generators for example, require very stable wind in order to be effective, while in reality the speed of the wind often changes and some days there is no wind at all. Very windy areas are hard to find, and are often near the coast where land is more expensive. Without wind, there is no wind energy. Similarly to wind, solar technologies are also dependent on environmental conditions. Around the United States, available sunlight varies considerably as a result of differences in cloud cover and latitude, and also varies with the seasons. In the summer, longer daylight hours and a higher sun angle provide more solar power, compared to the winter when the sun is up for fewer hours and at a lower position in the sky. In addition, solar cells can only operate during daylight hours. At night, there is no solar energy. In contrast to wind and solar, biomass energy is always available as long as there is a supply of wood or organic fuel to burn. Biomass energy is power, obtained from the energy in plants and plant-derived materials, such as food crops, grassy and woody plants, residues from agriculture or forestry, and the organic component of municipal and industrial wastes. Biomass can be used for direct heating, such as burning wood in a fireplace or wood stove, for generating electricity, or can be converted directly into liquid fuels to meet transportation energy needs. Of course, biomass is somewhat dependent on the climate. In areas where there is a dearth of foliage or agriculture, such as deserts, there is obviously very little biomass to burn for fuel. However, it would be possible to transport the biomass fuel in its liquid form into areas where organic biomass doesn't exist in order to use biomass energy in all environments.
Most humans in the world rely on biomass energy for their primary energy needs, mostly the world's poor who can't afford fossil fuels or who live in areas where it would be impractical to ship in other fuel types. The United States lags greatly behind the rest of the world in biomass utilization, but it is estimated that as much as 0.6 billion tons of biomass in...
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