Renewable Energy and Biomass Energy
Last modified: October 26, 2015
Renewable energy makes uses of fuel sources that can be replenished from nature and will not get exhausted like coal and petroleum. Renewable energy can of different types: solar energy, wind energy, biomass energy, and so on. Out of this biomass energy sources are available every where and at all times and much cheaper.
Bio-fuels are those parts of plant materials that are used to produce energy. Farm and household wastes, municipal garbage are the types of materials used as bio-fuels to produce biomass energy. Biomass energy can be directly produced by burning, or by changing rotting biomass into gas, or by extracting alcohol from them by using fermentation.
Biomass energy that is obtained from burning plant wastes like firewood, wood chips and shavings is mainly used as in the kitchens in rural areas, for heating and in some types of furnaces. As this method produces polluting wastes like smoke and ash and is not very efficient, it is slowly being phased out all over the world. Biomass energy such as biogas is produced by ‘slow burning’ or anaerobic conversion of rotting plant wastes, human and animal wastes in closed tanks to produce methane. This is mixed with oxygen in the air and used as fuel. Starch-rich plant products like maize and sugarcane are fermented to produce ethanol that is used as transportation fuel.
Research in converting biomass into energy using other methods like the microbial electrolysis cell that converts biomass into hydrogen, aqueous slurries, and chemical conversions are still being researched.
Although biomass energy is cheaper and renewable, there are arguments against its use such as, the production of greenhouse gases like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and some volatile organic compounds that cause global warming, and the carbon deposits that pollute the air. There are also apprehensions regarding the use of land for growing energy crops instead of the more important food crops. For instance, in Africa – many small and medium farmers are turning to the production of crops like maize for bio-fuel and disregard the its importance as food. Importing food has become the norm in those countries.
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