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Bio-energy

This article is about the physical energy derived biological sources. For the idea that all living things contain a "bioenergy" of a spiritual nature, see energy (esotericism).

Bioenergy is renewable energy made available from materials derived from biological sources. Biomass is any organic material which has stored sunlight in the form of chemical energy. As a fuel it may include wood, wood waste, straw, manure, sugarcane, and many other byproducts from a variety of agricultural processes. By 2010, there was 35GW of globally installed bioenergy capacity for electricity generation, of which 7GW was in the United States.[1]

In its most narrow sense it is a synonym to biofuel, which is fuel derived from biological sources. In its broader sense it includes biomass, the biological material used as a biofuel, as well as the social, economic, scientific and technical fields associated with using biological sources for energy. This is a common misconception, as bioenergy is the energy extracted from the biomass, as the biomass is the fuel and the bioenergy is the energy contained in the fuel.[2]

There is a slight tendency for the word bioenergy to be favoured in Europe compared with biofuel in North America.

Solid biomass

Main article: Biomass


One of the advantages of biomass fuel is that it is often a by-product, residue or waste-product of other processes, such as farming, animal husbandry and forestry.[1] In theory this means there is no competition between fuel and food production, although this is not always the case.[1]

Biomass is the material derived from recently living organisms, which includes plants, animals and their byproducts.[3] Manure, garden waste and crop residues are all sources of biomass. It is a renewable energy source based on the carbon cycle, unlike other natural resources such as petroleum, coal, and nuclear fuels. Another source includes Animal waste, which is a persistent and unavoidable pollutant produced primarily by the animals housed in industrial-sized farms.

There are also agricultural products specifically being grown for biofuel production. These include corn, and soybeans and to some extent willow and switchgrass on a pre-commercial research level, primarily in the United States; rapeseed, wheat, sugar beet, and willow (15,000 ha in Sweden) primarily in Europe; sugarcane in Brazil; palm oil and miscanthus in Southeast Asia; sorghum and cassava in China; and jatropha in India. Hemp has also been proven to work as a biofuel. Biodegradable outputs from industry, agriculture, forestry and households can be used for biofuel production, using e.g. anaerobic digestion to produce biogas, gasification to produce syngas or by direct combustion. Examples of biodegradable wastes include straw, timber, manure, rice husks, sewage, and food waste. The use of biomass fuels can therefore contribute to waste management as well as fuel security and help to prevent or slow down climate change, although alone they are not a comprehensive solution to these problems.

Biomass can be converted to other usable forms of energy like methane gas or transportation fuels like ethanol and biodiesel. Rotting garbage, and agricultural and human waste, all release methane gas—also called "landfill gas" or "biogas." Crops, such as corn and sugar cane, can be fermented to produce the transportation fuel, ethanol. Biodiesel, another transportation fuel, can be produced from left-over food products like vegetable oils and animal fats.Also, Biomass to liquids (BTLs) and cellulosic ethanol are still under research.

Electricity generation from biomass

The biomass used for electricity production ranges by region.[1] Forest by products, such as wood residues, are popular in the United States.[1] Agricultural waste is common in Mauritius (sugar cane residue) and Southeast Asia (rice husks).[1] Animal husbandry residues, such as poultry litter, is popular in the UK.[1]

Electricity from sugarcane bagasse in Brazil


Sucrose accounts for little more than 30% of the chemical energy stored in the mature plant; 35% is in the leaves and stem tips, which are left in the fields during harvest, and 35% are in the fibrous material (bagasse) left over from pressing.

The production process of sugar and ethanol in Brazil takes full advantage of the energy stored in sugarcane. Part of the bagasse is currently burned at the mill to provide heat for distillation and electricity to run the machinery. This allows ethanol plants to be energetically self-sufficient and even sell surplus electricity to utilities; current production is 600 MW for self-use and 100 MW for sale. This secondary activity is expected to boom now that utilities have been induced to pay "fair price "(about US$10/GJ or US$0.036/kWh) for 10 year contracts. This is approximately half of what the World Bank considers the reference price for investing in similar projects (see below). The energy is especially valuable to utilities because it is produced mainly in the dry season when hydroelectric dams are running low. Estimates of potential power generation from bagasse range from 1,000 to 9,000 MW, depending on technology. Higher estimates assume gasification of biomass, replacement of current low-pressure steam boilers and turbines by high-pressure ones, and use of harvest trash currently left behind in the fields. For comparison, Brazil's Angra I nuclear plant generates 657 MW.

Presently, it is economically viable to extract about 288 MJ of electricity from the residues of one tonne of sugarcane, of which about 180 MJ are used in the plant itself. Thus a medium-size distillery processing 1 million tonnes of sugarcane per year could sell about 5 MW of surplus electricity. At current prices, it would earn US$ 18 million from sugar and ethanol sales, and about US$ 1 million from surplus electricity sales. With advanced boiler and turbine technology, the electricity yield could be increased to 648 MJ per tonne of sugarcane, but current electricity prices do not justify the necessary investment. (According to one report, the World Bank would only finance investments in bagasse power generation if the price were at least US$19/GJ or US$0.068/kWh.)

Bagasse burning is environmentally friendly compared to other fuels like oil and coal. Its ash content is only 2.5% (against 30–50% of coal), and it contains very little sulfur. Since it burns at relatively low temperatures, it produces little nitrous oxides. Moreover, bagasse is being sold for use as a fuel (replacing heavy fuel oil) in various industries, including citrus juice concentrate, vegetable oil, ceramics, and tyre recycling. The state of São Paulo alone used 2 million tonnes, saving about US$ 35 million in fuel oil imports.

Researchers working with cellulosic ethanol are trying to make the extraction of ethanol from sugarcane bagasse and other plants viable on an industrial scale.

Environmental impact

Some forms of forest bioenergy have recently come under fire from a number of environmental organizations, including

See also

References

External links

  • Selection of Best Bioenergy films
  • Video: Where does bioenergy come from?
  • Nordic Energy Solutions Bioenergy Solutions from the Nordic Region
  • International Food Policy Research Institute.
  • Idaho National Laboratory).
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory).
  • Worldwatch Institute.)
  • US Department of Energys Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy).
  • Bioenergy in India (India's first Bioenergy Center at the prestigious IITs)
  • Global Change Biology Bioenergy(GCB Bioenergy is a journal promoting understanding of the interface between biological sciences and the production of fuels directly from plants, algae and waste.)
  • [1] Bioenergy plant in multiple countries

Template:Electricity generation

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