What are the Advantages of Biomass?
The majority of biomass today in Canada and the United States comes from forests, agriculture, industry and municipalities. This biomass, which can be any sort of plant matter, animal or human waste, is mankind’s oldest source of energy, and has long been used to make useful products, such as tools, clothing and dyes.
Recently, technological advancements and increasing environmental and economic concerns has caused governments, businesses and consumers to explore ways to utilize biomass as a renewable energy alternative to fossil fuels, and as a more sustainable alternative for many products. When it comes to using biomass for production of renewable energy and bioproducts, there are several advantages. These include:
- Abundant and Renewable: Biomass is abundantly available and can be found throughout Canada and the United States. Furthermore, since it comes from living sources and life is cyclical, as long as it is sustainably managed, biomass is a renewable resource. The advantage of biomass for renewable energy and bioproducts is therefore that it should never run-out or be depleted, enabling its use for many generations to come;
- Carbon Neutral: Biomass renewable energy and bioproducts do not increase atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, one of the primary contributors to climate change. This is because any carbon dioxide released from biomass is largely balanced by the carbon dioxide captured from the atmosphere by the biomass during its growth. Another advantage of biomass for renewable energy and bioproducts is that its use can decrease the amount of methane, another greenhouse gas, emitted from decaying organic matter in landfills, and from livestock manure and sewage;
- Reduced Pressure on Oil: One of the main drivers for governments, businesses and consumers to explore the use of biomass for renewable energy and bioproducts is that oil is a finite resource that cannot be renewed. While the use of oil for power is a significant contributor towards climate change, there are many oil-based products used today that cannot yet be produce sustainably with biomass; including medicines, cosmetics, plastics and synthetic fabrics. The advantage of biomass for renewable energy and bioproducts is that it reduces the pressure on rapidly depleting oil reserves, providing us with more time to develop biomass-based alternatives;
- Less Waste: Growing population, changing consumption patterns and increased affluence have all resulted in increased production of certain types of biomass that are often sent to landfill. Landfills are not only an eyesore for local communities, but they can also pollute local groundwater and soils. Furthermore, in Canada and the United States, many landfills are reaching their capacity with no long-term alternatives. The advantage of biomass for renewable energy and bioproducts is that it results in less material being sent to the landfill, thus prolonging the landfill’s life and reducing negative impacts;
- Flexibility: Biomass can be converted into solid, liquid or gaseous energy for a variety of industrial, agricultural and residential applications; including electricity, heat and transportation fuels. Biomass can also be used to produce a multitude of different bioproducts, such as biochemicals, bioplastics and biolubricants. The advantage of biomass for renewable energy and bioproducts is that it can be converted into many different types of power and products to suite local needs and capture local opportunities;
- Local Jobs: The majority of biomass in Canada and the United States today comes from forests and agriculture. The advantage of biomass for renewable energy and bioproducts is that it supports local forestry and agricultural sectors. Furthermore, as most of the biomass used for renewable energy and bioproducts comes from surrounding areas, another advantage of biomass for renewable energy and bioproducts is that it creates well-paid, long-term jobs in the local community, including rural and remote locations;
- Price Stability: Increases in world energy demand combined with on-going geopolitical events have and will continue to lead to increasing fossil-fuel prices and price volatility. This volatility is a threat to the long-term profitability of many businesses that are dependent upon fossil-fuels, as it can significantly impact both their costs and revenues. The advantage of biomass for renewable energy and bioproducts is that it can mitigate the impact of rising fossil-fuel prices and protect businesses from market price volatility, both now and in the future; and
- Fewer Imports: Today the majority of energy and products in Canada and the United States are imported. Paying for imports accounts for most of the flow of dollars out of our provinces, states and countries, and represents lost economic opportunities. The advantage of biomass for renewable energy and bioproducts is that it reduces consumption of imported fuels and products. This reduced consumption not only increases security, control and reliability, but it also keeps dollars in the local economy, enabling better infrastructure; such as schools, hospitals, parks and more.
While there are many advantages of using biomass for production of renewable energy and bioproducts, undertaking a biomass renewable energy project in Canada and the Unites States can be a challenging and daunting prospect. At Hallbar Consulting we know biomass; through our partnership with the Swedish Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Engineering we work with you to maximise your biomass opportunities.