Biomass is a renewable energy source which is found within the organic and biological material of living organisms (both plant and animal). Plants reserve solar radiation through the process of photosynthesis and store it while they are developing with the aid of water and minerals. This stored form of energy can be converted to various types of useful energy, as for example heating and electricity. The energy which is derived from biomass is known as “bioenergy”.
Biomass Types and Products
There are many biomass types available, such as fruit remains (e.g. almond and nut shells, olive pits), saw mill and forestry residues and by-products (e.g. saw dust, wood shavings, wood chips, wood scraps), pruning of tree crops, agricultural residues (e.g. straw, hay, rice husks, cotton stalks, vine branches, corn cobs), energy crops (e.g. cynara-cardoon, miscanthus, sweet sorgum, eucalyptus, reed, willow) or even organic waste of living organisms. All these different types of biomass material can be transformed to bioenergy through diffrerent processes. These processes can be either thermochemical (e.g. combustion, pyrolysis, gasification) or biochemical (e.g. alcoholic fermentation, aerobic digestion, anaerobic digestion). The products resulting from these processes can be solid fuels (known as “biofuels”) and gas fuels (e.g. methanol) for heating and electricity generation, liquid fuels (e.g. bioethanol and biodiesel) for usage in transport industry or even soil improvement products (compost and humus).
According to studies by CRES, global biomass which is produced annually is estimated to contain ten times more energy than that needed by the planet for the same time period. From this huge energy pool today it is utilized a limited quantity, which accounts for just 1/7 of world energy consumption. As for Greece, it is estimated that the total quantity of agricultural and forestry residues amounts to 10 million tons of biomass material, which corresponds approximately to 30% of annual oil quantity consumed. At the same time, development of energy crops is estimated to yield energy equivalent to 5 million tons of oil equivalent, i.e. approximately 50% of annual oil consumption in Greece. Therefore, even if only partial exploitation of possibilities of biomass primary collection in combination with the gradual development of energy crops take place, this could result in significant imported oil savings for Greece.
Click here to see the infographic for biomass energy prospects:
The Promise and Οpportunity of Biomass Energy (source: http://www.reenergyholdings.com)