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Biomass renewable energy is energy derived usually from plant waste, such as beet, corn, or sugarcane waste that can be used to produce ethanol fuel for cars, aircraft, and other forms of transportation. Biomass renewable energy offers a potentially limitless supply of energy to modern civilization, because most of the energy derived from biomass was generated first by the sun. Renewable energies such as those produced from biomass products are also seen as generally less harmful to the environment, as less pollution is generated in the process of manufacturing and using them.
Unlike fossil fuels, biomass renewable energy can also be replenished over a short time period by simply planting more of the crop that is used to generate the fuel or harvesting more of an otherwise unused plant from nature. It is, therefore, dependent on proper land management. The proper use of freshwater resources and soil conservation in a sustainable manner must be the focus of biomass energy production if it is to be a long-term solution to growing energy needs.
In the United States, biomass renewable energy as of 2002 supplied six times as much energy as geothermal renewable energy, solar power, and wind energy resources combined. Estimates are that 3% of all energy in the United States is supplied by biomass renewable resources. Globally, 14% of energy needs are met by biomass fuels.
Most biomass renewable energy sources also are carbon neutral, not contributing any net greenhouse gas emissions to the environment. This is because the plants used initially pull carbon from the air as they grow, so that any carbon emitted by converting them to fuels later simply balances out that reduction. Otherwise free sources for biomass renewable energy include plant wastes, such as wood residue from the paper and pulp industry, as well as industrial and municipal waste. One lumber processing region of the United States produces 1,000 trillion British Thermal Units (BTUs) in biomass energy each year, much of this wood chips that is burned as a energy source by local industry. Wood biomass also accounts for over 10% of all energy production in Austria.
As of 2011, renewable energy credits for the use of biomass renewable energy are actively promoted in 18 U.S. states that have official Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and over 29 other industrialized nations worldwide have established tax incentive programs for renewable energy. Using biomass products for energy production through heating and cooking is a natural part of the culture of developing nations, with estimates that 35% of all energy production there comes from these sources. Wood is also the most common biomass product globally for local electrical generation. By burning wood waste for heat, steam-powered electrical plants are fueled.
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