Nature Waste to Energy?

Written by Grace Houser, ESLLC 2016-2017

So as we are talking about renewable energy in class, we are learning about all of the different types. There are the negative effect ones like coal, oil, and gas. Then there are renewable energies of solar, wind, hydroelectric, and biomass. They are all pretty self-explanatory except biomass could use a bit of extra explanation into how it works.

So basically, biomass comes from organic materials like scrap lumber, forest debris, manure, and others. What makes it renewable is that waste residues will always exist and properly managed forests will always have more trees. Biomass can be a really great option compared to some other sources like hydro which has a lot of negative effects.

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The biomass power is carbon neutral electricity that when burned, the energy is released as heat. In the biomass power plants, waste is burned to produce steam that turns a turbine to produce electricity or that provides heat.

So this process of burning nature’s waste begs the question, what happens to the emissions from burning the biomass? Well, new technology has allowed for these emissions to generally be less than those of fossil fuels. Another pro of biomass is to help reduce waste that would otherwise end up in landfills.

In 2015, biomass accounted for only 1.6 percent of energy sources. Part of this could be for the cons that it has. For one, it isn’t completely clean when burned. Also, wood is used as one of the biomass sources and some feel that deforestation is an inevitable effect if people don’t manage the forests sustainably. Another reason people have that reiterates itself through many renewable energies is cost. Biomass is very expensive and not always worth the expenses.

Overall, we continue to learn that energy is very complicated. There is no perfect source of energy that has only positive benefits. Each one comes with its own pros and cons that we have to weigh against one another. Above all, we want to generally move towards renewables which is the safest bet to have sustainable energies and reduce climate change.

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