BiomassVertBDRBiomass refers to a broad range of biological material derived from plants - such as trees and forestry residues, agricultural and purpose-grown crops, and industrial or municipal waste products -that can be transformed into renewable heat and power. Biomass is a remarkably diverse, widespread, and abundant energy source. The potential for economically harvestable biomass exists nearly everywhere on Earth. Where low-cost sources of biomass are available, biomass can be highly competitive with conventional and renewable sources of energy.

Though less commonly known than wind or solar, biomass plays an important and fast-growing role in the production of energy worldwide. In fact, biomass has long been the dominant source of renewable heat and is now a burgeoning source of renewable power worldwide. In 2010, biomass produced over 50 billion kilowatt-hours or 1.5% of all electrical power in the U.S. In Europe, where renewable standards well-established, biomass plays an even larger role, accounting for over 70% of all renewable electricity produced. 

Biomass is Renewable

PhotosythesisThrough the process of photosynthesis, biomass collects and stores solar energy within its cell walls. When plant matter is burned or decomposes,  it releases the sun's energy stored within. In this way, biomass acts like a sort of natural battery for storing solar energy. So long as it is sustainably grown and harvested, the biomass "battery" provides a source of renewable energy. 

Biomass is Carbon Neutral

Biomass is naturally carbon neutral. When living, biomass acts as a carbon sink, removing and storing carbon from the atmosphere. When burned or decayed, the carbon dioxide stored within the biomass is released. So long as biomass is sustainably managed and replenished with new growth, its use results in no net increase in atmospheric CO2 levels.

Carbon Cycle

By contrast, combustion of fossil fuels releases ancient stores of geologic CO2 and other greenhouse gases that unbalance the earth's natural carbon cycle. Most scientists believe this human activity is driving the trend of global warming and climate change.

Of course, when used as a fuel biomass is not inherently carbon-neutral. Minor emissions are created during the harvesting, transport, storage, and combustion of biomass. Unlike fossil fuels, however, the carbon contribution of biomass can be counteracted by planting more than is harvested to restore balance to the carbon cycle.

Biomass is Sustainable

To realize the environmental benefits of biomass power, standards of sustainability must be followed to minimize environmental risks and maximize the benefits of biomass energy. Potential sources of sustainable biomass energy are plentiful so long as they are carefully managed, harvested, and replenished.

When sustainable practices are employed, biomass energy can create tremendous environmental, economic, and social benefits locally and globally. Integro takes its environmental responsibilities and mission seriously. Learn more about how we produce NuCoal from sustainable wood waste.