The advantages and disadvantages of biomass as an energy source are diverse and debatable. Thus, in this article we will try to explain them in a summarized way, focusing on the most relevant.
Both the pros and cons must be taken into account before opting for biomass to produce energy.
But what is biomass? It is all organic matter that can be used as an energy source. It can be of animal or vegetable origin.
Some examples of biomass are the wood obtained from the branches that fall from the trees, the husks of coffee and the fertilizer or manure that comes from livestock.
Advantages of biomass
Among the advantages of biomass we can highlight:
- It is a renewable energy source: It naturally renews itself as part of the natural cycle of life.
- Little contaminant: It generates less pollution, compared, for example, to the burning of fossil fuels that produces greenhouse gases, or nuclear energy that generates toxic waste.
- It is economical: It can be obtained at little cost, taking into account that biomass can come from residues or waste from other activities such as livestock or agriculture.
- Recycling help: Related to the previous point, it allows the reuse or use of waste generated in certain productive activities. This relates to the circular economy.
- Helps reduce dependency on other sources: Thanks to biomass, the use of more polluting energy sources, such as coal, can be reduced.
- Clean up the forests: By using the wood that falls from the trees, the production of biomass allows the cleaning of forests, preventing forest fires.
- Economic development: It allows the generation of jobs in rural areas.
Likewise, the disadvantages of biomass are mainly:
- Large spaces are required: Biomass occupies large spaces, forcing companies to incur additional storage costs. This, taking into account that a large volume of matter is needed to produce energy.
- Generates ash and gases: When material is burned, ash and gases are produced, so high safety measures must be implemented. This generates an additional cost in operations. To avoid the production of toxic substances in incineration, it must be carried out at temperatures greater than 900 ºC.
- Specific maintenance: The boilers used for biomass incineration require specialized maintenance. For this, companies that do not abound in the market must be hired, since it is a type of technology that is currently not massive.
- It can cause deforestation: In the case of energy crops, these require large spaces for planting and harvesting that could be installed in previously deforested areas.
- High transportation costs: As we mentioned earlier, large amounts of biomass are required for energy production. This can generate additional costs in the transport of organic matter.
It is worth noting that the advantages and disadvantages indicated in this article are subject to the mechanism used to treat the biomass, which can go through different types of processes, not only simple burning or combustion, but also fermentation or gasification.