With an increasing concern for the omission of carbon dioxide produced from fossil fuels, the world is turning to renewable energy resources to keep our planet green. Biomass Energy is a renewable energy source made from biomass. Although a considerable advantage of using a biomass system is the decreased emission of carbon dioxide, there are two sides to every story – so what are the advantages and disadvantages of biomass energy?
Biomass Energy Disadvantages
High initial cost: The high initial prices of a biomass boiler are quite daunting to most people, with a standard automatic biomass boiler typically costing around £12,000 in a domestic residence, and manual biomass boilers, where wood is fed into the furnace by hand, slightly cheaper at £7,000. This cost will rise for commercial and business use. On top of the equipment and installation, fuel costs need to be taken into consideration, with a tonne of wood pellets derived from waste wood materials typically costing around £150-£200. However, the use of sustainable fuels to generate power can drastically reduce household bills. Yet, the installation of a biomass boiler has to be seen as an investment, rather than a cost. Large organisations using a large amount of heat and water continuously throughout the year, seeing around 2,500 tonnes of carbon emissions offset, and £60,000 on bills per year. Household residences could make a saving of about £200 per year and an offset of around 8 tonnes per year. This means the ‘payback’ period for the installation of a biomass boiler is approximately six or seven years.
Harmful to the environment: Although there is generally a significant reduction of carbon dioxide emissions when you compare it to other systems, there is an increase in methane gases, which can also be harmful to the Earth’s ozone layer. These methane gases can emit unpleasant smells that can attract unwanted pests.
Consumes more fuel: For someone to acquire enough lumber to power a plant, for example, companies would have to clear vast forest area. This makes the use of natural trees and tree products to power machines inefficient and can often create environmental problems. However, providing the fuel is locally sourced the emissions are much lower than that of fossil fuels.
Replant of plants: For biomass energy to be a renewable resource, crops have to be replanted to keep the process continually moving – the process is sustainable as long as new plants continue to grow to replace the fuel used.
Biomass Energy Advantages
Abundant: Biomass is always available and can be produced as a renewable resource; it can be found virtually anywhere and includes organic matter such as plants, animals or waste products from natural sources. These energy sources are known as biofuels and usually include rotted trees, wood chips, sewage, manure and tree components. As they come from living sources, we will never run out, so long as there are living things on the Earth and there is someone to turn these components and waste products into energy.
No harmful carbon dioxide emissions: Less pollution is generated through the production of biomass energy due to the utterly natural intake, meaning there are no carbon dioxide side effects in its use. Many other energy sources struggle to control the amount of carbon dioxide realised, resulting in harm to the ozone layer and increases in the effects of greenhouse gases, potentially warming the planet.
Restoration of wasteland: A massive advantage of biomass energy is its ability to take the harmful waste and turn it into a useful energy resource. For example, rubbish, in theory, can be burned to create useable biomass energy.
Clean energy: As biomass is relatively fresh compared to other energy generation methods, it can be used in commercial businesses such as airlines, meaning it is good for the environment and good for businesses.
Reduce Fossil Fuel dependency: With a large number of homes and businesses using oil to provide energy in the UK. There is a daunting factor that oil will gradually run out if people do not switch to a renewable energy source such as biomass. Once the oil is gone, it is gone forever. The use of biomass will, therefore, reduce the dependency on fossil fuels.
Renewable Heat Incentive: Biomass boilers have become a more significant incentive to install due to the introduction of the Renewable Heat Incentive in November 2011. This is a scheme for the non-domestic sector, providing long-term financial support for renewable heat by offering payments to businesses, industry and public sector organisations. This is also to be extended to a household scheme, planned for Spring 2014. This is part of the UK having a binding target under the European Commissions Renewable Energy Directive to source 15% of its overall energy from renewable sources by 2020.