Biomass is organic material that comes from plants and animals, and it is a renewable source of energy. Biomass contains stored energy from the sun. Plants absorb the sun’s energy in a process called photosynthesis. When biomass is burned, the chemical energy in biomass is released as heat. Biomass can be burned directly or converted to liquid biofuels or biogas that can be burned as fuels.
Examples of biomass and their uses for energy:
- Wood and wood processing wastes—burned to heat buildings, to produce process heat in industry, and to generate electricity
- Agricultural crops and waste materials—burned as a fuel or converted to liquid biofuels
- Food, yard, and wood waste in garbage—burned to generate electricity in power plants or converted to biogas in landfills
- Animal manure and human sewage—converted to biogas, which can be burned as a fuel
Waste-derived fuels are generally less costly than grown or coppiced biomass fuels and frequently offer the advantage of having a negative cost, in as much as the user is paid a disposal fee (gate fee) by the waste handler. This has the potential to make a significant contribution to the economic viability of both bio-mass co-firing and the affordable disposal of non-recyclable wastes.