Biomass energy sources are those things used as fuel that at one time gained its energy from the sun. There are some distinct pluses and minuses when considering biomass products as a fuel source. Whether or not the pros outweigh the cons depends on the locale, the availability of the fuel as well as the local ordinances governing what fuel may be used.
The most distinct advantage to using biomass fuels are the fact that they are, for the most part, renewable. If it is derived from a crop, then in most cases the crop can be regrown. This will supply a never-ending resource of fuel for unending years to come. Most people find the fact that this energy source is renewable to be very appealing. In our heart of hearts, we know that fossil fuels will simply run out one day. This is not the case with renewable biomass fuel.
Biomass fuels are also scaleable. Local communities, and even individuals, can set up processes to convert biomass fuel to usable energy. There are techniques readily available online which will instruct you on how to do this. Just make sure the local authorities understand that you are not illegally making alcohol for consumption. You do not want the “revenuers” coming by to chop up your energy still. On a larger scale, industrial plants can accomplish large scale methane extraction
to provide this fuel for a single industry or wide-scale distribution.
The simplest biomass fuels are cheap and therefore, they can be successfully implemented in third-world countries and other poverty stricken areas. Since the earliest days, dried excrement has been successfully used as a cooking fuel. Being able to properly cook food may mean the difference between outbreaks of disease or not in desperate situations.
Another key advantage of using fuel derived from biomass, is that, for the most part, the fuel is available anywhere. Dead wood, harvested foliage, animal excrement and crops are available worldwide. It is only deserts and frozen tundras where enough of the raw biomass materials will not be available.
The different forms of biomass fuels adds to its utility. Methane, a gas, may be produced and used in heating, cooking and lighting. Bio-diesel is typically produced from crops. This bio-diesel may by used to power cars and trucks successfully.
Biomass fuels are not without their drawbacks. It can be expensive and time consuming to grow and harvest the amount of crops necessary to manufacture bio-diesel on a large scale. It is also no small undertaking to set up and operate a methane plant.
There may be political wrangling over whether crops being grown should be used for fuel or for food. This debate is particularly acute in third-world countries, where famine is a constant threat.
Like fossil fuels, biomass fuels release carbon. This contributes to pollution and, more ominously, global warming. For this reason, it will not be the magic energy panacea for which we all hope.
Besides the money and expertise required to set up production facilities, there is a real safety concern for the producers of this fuel in third world countries. Safety precautions are usually the last thing put in place in under-developed countries, so the workers will face dangerous production risks.
There is a place for biomass fuels in the production of the worlds energy needs. Because of its availability, efficacy and relatively low cost, biomass fuels will be a piece of the energy puzzle for years to come.