Biomass, is a renewable source of fuels that can be used to run cars, power electrical systems and contribute to the production of numerous products. Sources of biomass are organic materials such as manure, decaying vegetation and other waste materials. Biomass materials have primarily been used as fuels to power vehicles but there are also new ways to utilize biomass materials.
Biogas is the gas produced by any type of biomass material intended to be burned for the production of electricity. Energy is also produced by simply burning biomass --- waste wood or agricultural byproducts, for example --- but the direct burning of biomass releases substantial amounts of toxins and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The gasification of biomass materials prior to burning allows for the removal of some of these toxins. Additionally, gases burn cleaner than solids and release fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Biopellets are small, combustible pellets made from compacted biomass products such as sawdust, bark, organic waste materials and waste paper. Recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy as an alternative way to heat homes during the winter, biopellets are burned in a variety of different appliances specifically designed for this purpose. When researching biopellet heating appliances it is important to consider the size of the home to be heated and to match the appliance to the size of the home.
Biosynthesis gas is a gas mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide produced when biomass material is heated in the presence of oxygen. Biosynthesis gas is useful in producing numerous products such as plastics or acids that can then be used to make other products. Biomass materials are also useful in making products such as antifreeze, plastics and even artificial sweetners. Most materials produced using petroleum-based products can also be produced using biomass materials and often times require less energy to manufacture.
The "Fairbanks Daily Newsminer" reports that some interior Alaskan villages use biomass materials, particularly spruce trees too small for conventional logging, to heat their schools and public buildings. Using boilers that burn waste wood from surrounding forests, the villages have substantially offset the costs of using heating oil. Small spruce trees are fed through a heavy-duty wood chipper to create the chips that power the boilers.
- Biomass Net: A Brief Definition of Biomass
- U.S. Department of Energy: Biomass Energy or Biopower
- U.S. Department of Energy: Wood and Pellet Heating
- U.S. Department of Energy: Energy Bioproducts
- "Fairbanks Daily Newsminer"; Interior Alaska Villages Making Plans to Increase Biomass Use; Molly Rettig; April 2011