The source of biomass as energy is derived from three distinct energy sources: wood, waste, and alcohol fuels. Wood energy is derived both from direct use of harvested wood as a fuel and from wood waste streams. The largest source of energy from wood is pulping liquor or “black liquor,” a waste product from processes of the pulp, paper and paperboard industry.
Waste energy is the second-largest source of biomass energy. The main contributors of waste energy are municipal solid waste (MSW), manufacturing waste, and landfill gas. Biomass alcohol fuel, or ethanol, is derived almost exclusively from corn. Its principal use is as an oxygenate in gasoline.
Biomass can be converted to other usable forms of energy like methane gas or transportation fuels like ethanol and biodiesel. Methane gas is the main ingredient of natural gas. Smelly stuff, like rotting garbage, and agricultural and human waste, release methane gas – also called “landfill gas” or “biogas.” Crops like 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.
The organic matter within the plants, the agriculture crops, and material related with the plants directly or indirectly are called as the biomass. The plants absorb energy from the sun by a process called photosynthesis; hence the energy stored within the biomass is the solar energy. When biomass is burnt lot of heat is produced which can be used for various purposes. The biomass can also be converted into fuels like ethanol and biodiesel that can be used as the fuels for the vehicles. Methane produced from the biomass is the major component of natural gas which is being used extensively as the alternate fuel for the vehicles.
Sources of Biomass
Here are various biomass sources, which are a great source of energy that can be used for various applications:
1) Wood and waste wood: Wood is the most commonly used type of biomass. Since the earliest days the fuel being used for cooking and heating is the wood. Even at present wood as the biomass material is major source of energy in a number of developing countries.
Wood as a biomass can be used in various forms like large wooden blocks obtained from the trees, wooden chips, and saw dust. The wasted wood and wooden scrap are also the source of biomass.
2) Leaves of the plants: In the densely planted places lots of leaves fall from the trees. These can be dried, powdered and converted into small pieces, which can be used as the biomass fuel to generate heat used usually for cooking food.
3) Broken branches and twigs of the trees: No part of the plant goes wasted when it leaves the main body of the tree. Large and small branches and even all the small twigs are the source of biomass energy.
4) Agricultural waste: Lots of waste materials obtained from the farms are a great source of biomass materials. Livestock waste can also be used to generate methane gas.
5) Waste paper: Tons of waste paper is produced every day. These can be burnt to produce lots of heat. The paper is manufactured from the plants, so it is considered to be biomass material.
6) Garbage: The garbage, also called as municipal solid waste is another source of biomass. The garbage can be in the form of food scrap, lawn clippings, waste paper, fallen leaves etc all mixed together or collected individually.
7) Human waste: The human wastes are also considered to the source of biomass. These can used to generate methane gas which is the major component of natural gas.