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Biomass Mythbusters

Whenever an emerging technology, particularly in the energy sector, begins to grow and gain popularity in the mainstream, a number of misconceptions and misunderstandings begin to come to the forefront. Biomass energy is one of these technologies and energy production techniques that have grown and with it, so have the myths which surround it.

In this article, we’re going to put to rest some of the common myths that you might hear and read about when it comes to biomass and biomass energy.

Biomass is wood

This myth is not true, a more correct statement would be that “wood is biomass”. Why? Biomass is not just wood; it’s essentially any and all things that grow. Flowers, trees, grass, mushrooms, it’s all biomass.

Bio – Biological
Mass – Weight, Abundance, Amount. 

Popular biomasses range from wood chip, through to hay and ethanol, all of which come from different sources and have different uses and energy densities. However, they are all biomass.

Biomass increases air pollution and poses a health risk

Biomass boilers and burners get their energy by burning the material and using the heat produced to create electricity. It’s a natural reaction for people to think that this would be a bad thing for the environment and the smoke produced might be bad for your health.

However, just like in Waste to Energy Plants, biomass boilers are highly sophisticated machines that are governed by tight regulations. Their polluting output is monitored constantly and thanks to the technology within them, gases and particulates that could be harmful to health are efficiently filtered from the exhaust.

Biomass Promotes Deforestation

Biomass that uses primary wood is argued to promote deforestation. The argument states that since there’s profit to be made from cutting down trees, there’s little to stop runaway deforestation. However, this in most countries and specifically the UK is not the case. In the UK we have the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). These bodies are in place to ensure that all biomass (and any wood-based products) are sourced from responsibly farmed wood and conforms to the most up-to-date European Standards.

Biomass is not very efficient

Whilst it’s true, normal biomass isn’t incredibly efficient at around 25%. Combined heat and power plants can reach an efficiency of up to 90%. They reach this impressive efficiency by using the heat to boil water, the steam of which turns turbines. The remaining heat and hot water are then piped into nearby business and homes to heat businesses. This is called combined heat and power.

If you would like to learn more about Biomass, take a look at our previous blogs:

What is biomass?
Biomass VS Biogas
Renewable Energy – 5 Countries beating the UK
Biomass – Innovations in Energy

You can read about our biomass plant and other renewable energy facilities, here.

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