This is a complete guide to the Biomass Power Plant, including its advantages and disadvantages.
Biomass is becoming increasingly well-known as the main source of renewable energy on Earth. The process of converting plant or animal matter into electricity and heat is known as biomass. As opposed to fossil fuels, this method of energy production has the main advantage of using an inexhaustible resource because it is produced in an environmentally friendly manner.
Even power plants now use biomass as fuel, but what exactly is it? What justifies its use as fuel in power plants? Exactly how clean is biomass as a fuel? Read on to learn more because we’ll address all of these questions below.
What is a Biomass Power Plant?
A biomass power plant, as opposed to those that use conventional fuels like coal or gas, is entirely powered by, you guessed it, biomass. We can use biomass as fuel because it is an organic, renewable resource that is made from plant and animal waste.
Burning fuel produces steam in biomass power plants, which turns turbines to produce electricity. The main distinction between this and the way electricity is produced by coal or gas-fueled power plants is the type of fuel.
The production of electricity from biomass is not limited to its use as fuel. Other techniques, like gasification, use a different approach to biomass to produce energy. Less oxygen than would be required for proper combustion is used to heat the biomass during gasification. Hydrogen is created as a result, and the power plant can use it as fuel.
The majority of biomass power plants use combustion to generate energy, so it is important to make sure the combustion is as clean as possible.
Below are the advantages and disadvantages of biomass power plants:
- As a renewable energy source, biomass is frequently and readily available.
- It is carbon neutral.
- Doing this, it lessens our reliance on fossil fuels.
- cheapest compared to fossil fuels.
- Manufacturers have a new source of income thanks to the production of biomass.
- fewer waste materials in landfills.
- Fossil fuels are more efficient than biomass energy.
- The cleanliness is not perfect.
- Deforestation might result.
- The size of biomass plants is significant.
You can learn more about other types of power plants, such as Nuclear Power Plants, Hydroelectric Power Plants, Thermal Power Plants, Geothermal Power Plants, Solar Power Plants, Wind Power Plants, and Tidal Power Plants.
How Does a Biomass Power Plant Work?
The steam that is produced when plant or animal matter burns in a combustion chamber at a biomass power plant is used to generate electricity. This process is done in several steps:
- Combustion: In a combustion chamber, the biomass is burned.
- Steam production: As a result of the biomass, a boiler’s water is heated. Steam, created from the water, is pressure-transferred to turbines after being converted.
- Electricity production: An alternator is driven by a steam-powered turbine. The alternator creates an alternating electric current with the help of the energy the turbine supplies. In order to make it easier to transport the alternator’s electric current in medium and high voltage lines, a transformer increases the voltage of the current.
- Recycling: A portion of the steam is recovered at the turbine’s exit for use as heating. Cogeneration is the term used for this.
A condenser, which circulates cold water from the sea or a river, converts the remaining steam back into the water. The water that was obtained in this way is recovered and put back into the boiler to begin a new cycle.
What Can Produce Biomass Energy?
There are different mechanisms that can produce biomass energy:
Combustion of Raw Material
This is the most frequently adopted method. For the turbine to run, steam must be produced through the combustion of raw materials like wood. Environmental associations draw particular attention to one point: deforestation.
Given that wood is the primary material used in biomass power plants, the growing use of this form of energy production could potentially make trees more and more necessary. It will be important to take precautions to prevent overly intensive resource exploitation.
Bagasse is a byproduct of the production of sugar from the cane. This form of biomass is used instead of coal to fuel thermal power plants. By using this method, the DROM-COM islands (Reunion, Guadeloupe, etc.) can utilize their natural resources…).
Thermochemical conversion of solid biomass into combustible gas, which can be used in a variety of ways, constitutes this creative alternative. This procedure converts the raw material into a gas that will be used as fuel.
Use case: Hemp, for instance, is a good source of gasification-generated biogas. Dry biomass, solid recovered fuels, or wood waste can all be inputs into the high-temperature thermochemical process known as gasification. This process operates between 800°C and 1400°C. In this way, hemp can be utilized.
In a similar vein, a group in Japan by the name of HySTRA seeks to create a network of hydrogen supply that is both dependable and affordable. This collaboration has led to the construction of a fuel unloading terminal in Japan and a lignite gasification facility in Australia.
Biomass power plants occasionally use the methanization procedure. In this case, the organic materials used, such as household waste, paper, cardboard, or manure, are not burned, but fermented.
Biogas produced by methanization can be used, for instance, to power cars and trucks. A technique in full development, indeed! In 2020, there are a significantly greater number of methanization facilities injecting biogas into the gas networks. French biogas plants had 214 as of December 31, 2020.
Recently, a national methanization information website was launched for the general public. This initiative, known as MéthaFrance, aims to educate French citizens about the growth of methanization in our regions.
How Much Power Do Biomass Power Plants Produce?
Biomass power plants can generate between 2–1,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity, though most range from 20 MW to 200 MW. To put this into perspective, 20 MW is enough to power around 15,000–20,000 homes for an hour.
There isn’t actually a biomass power plant that has reached 1,000 MW yet – this is just an estimate of what a larger plant would be capable of.
The UK is already close to achieving that goal; in fact, the Ironbridge power plant in the Severn Gorge is the largest biomass power plant in the entire world. It clocks in at a staggering 740 MW, eclipsing the second-largest biomass power plant.
Are Biomass Power Plants Popular Around the World?
Biomass power plants have undeniably gained in popularity as society moves toward more environmentally friendly ways of producing electricity. Around 2,000 biomass power plants produced 22 GWel (gigawatt electrical)* of electricity a little more than ten years ago.
Now, in 2022, there are more than 4,500 biomass power plants, with a combined output of 74.6 GWel. This is still some way off the number of coal power plants in the world (8,500 as of 2021), but the signs are there that biomass power plants are quickly catching up.
Are Biomass Power Plants Eco-friendly?
As a rule, burning biomass instead of coal in a power plant is more environmentally friendly. 230 grams of carbon dioxide are produced per kilowatt-hour by burning biomass as opposed to 1,100 grams of carbon dioxide when burning coal. This difference is obvious.
However, most biomass power plants continue to burn biomass, which releases pollutants into the atmosphere.
Therefore, despite the fact that biomass is frequently promoted as a green substitute for conventional fossil fuels, it still emits carbon dioxide, albeit at a lower level. Gas, which emits 412 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour, emits about 50% more carbon emissions than biomass, which, on average, produces about 80% fewer carbon emissions than coal.
However, there are outliers, which we assume some of the major owners of biomass power plants would want to keep secret. One government study into biomass fuel emissions revealed that biomass carbon emissions can actually be higher than either coal or gas emissions.
This is because biomass is occasionally imported, a process that generates all the carbon emissions you’d anticipate from maritime shipping or other modes of transportation.
There is no doubt about it: biomass power plants are here to stay and, in our opinion, will eventually replace conventional gas and coal power stations. Biomass is cleaner than both gas and coal, but only when managed properly.
Even though biomass energy has some drawbacks, more research and innovation are still being put into it in order to make it a more accessible, less expensive alternative, and a valuable replacement for conventional electricity and other energy sources.