Biomass is biological material from living, or recently living organisms, most often referring to plants or plant-derived materials. As a renewable energy source, biomass can either be used directly, or indirectly—once or converted into another type of energy product such as biofuel. Biomass can be converted to energy in three ways: thermal conversion, chemical conversion, and biochemical conversion. The adoption of biomass-based energy plants has been a slow but steady process. Over the past decade, the production of these plants has increased 14%. In the United States, alternative electricity-production sources on the whole generate about 13% of power; of this fraction, biomass contributes approximately 11% of the alternative production.
The most common types of biomass energy applications reduce carbon dioxide emissions 55-98% compared to fossil fuels, even when transported long distances, as long as the biomass production does not cause any land-use change. The E.U. Commission’s recent report on the sustainability of biomass concluded that the most common types of biomass for heat and power applications reduce emissions by that 55-98% compared to today’s fossil fuel mix in European power generation even in situations where the biomass is transported internationally.
Biomass energy supports agricultural and forest-product industries. The main biomass feedstocks for power are paper mill residue, lumber mill scrap, manure, and municipal waste. By effectively processing these wastes into electricity, we can avoid using lands for their disposal, resulting in significant conservation benefits.
GSE views this as a timely market opportunity and will target this sector in the first instance.