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Where Does Biomass Come From?

26 Apr 11:00 by Steve Walia

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From your domestic wood-burning stove through to large commercial biomass boilers, what is there to know about this form of renewable energy?

Biomass is a term for clean fuel from a wide range of sources. It can be made from timber products or energy crops. 

Energy crops will typically be grown specifically to produce biomass fuel. Earlier versions of the fuel were criticized for diverting agricultural land away from fuel production due to government subsidies favouring biomass. However, the newer generations of biofuels use crops that can be grown on waste land as well as algae. Scientists are looking at yeasts and the use of other waste products that can be transformed into clean power.

Timber biomass tends to come from forestry operations or from the by-products of paper-milling or other industrial processes. In this instance, it takes products that would otherwise be classed as waste and reuses them to create a carbon-neutral fuel.

Why carbon-neutral? Because the carbon dioxide absorbed by organic materials during their growth phase is then released during burning.

This is still beneficial when compared to the use of fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases, however. Additionally, biofuel businesses are looking at ways to operate in as sustainable a way as possible - for example, by using low-fuel methods of transportation such as shipping.

Certainly, biomass has a strong future. It is already used to power the majority of the Drax operation in Yorkshire in Britain's largest power station, and it is expected to comprise over 50pc of European clean energy by 2020. In 2010, it accounted for just 4pc of the EU's total electricity generation.

It can work to reduce carbon emissions, as long as products are produced in a sustainable and controlled manner.