What Is Bioenergy?
Bioenergy is the term used to describe Biomass, Biogas and Biofuels. Bioenergy can be used to create electricity or produce heat, as well as to power vehicles. Biomass is usually used to mean products that produce heat or energy, and biofuel is used for liquids used as fuel for transportation such as additives for petrol or diesel. Approximately 10% of energy used in the world is bioenergy, and this figure looks like it will increase.
Bioenergy is produced from organic materials that are often grown for the sole purpose of producing bioenergy, or from agricultural, domestic and industrial waste. Bioenergy is a form of renewable energy, and so reduces the need for traditional fossil fuels and landfill space. Bioenergy is produced by biomass and utilises solar energy stored during photosynthesis.
Bioenergy can be highly beneficial in countries or areas where traditional sources of energy and fuel are less available, less viable, or have to be imported. Using bioenergy can therefore increase the availability of fuel, and reduce the reliance on imports. Crops required for bioenergy can be grown quickly, and almost anywhere, and so reduce the transportation and processing costs.
Whilst bioenergy is a renewable energy, it isn’t carbon neutral, as there is some transportation involved. However, if waste destined to become bioenergy is sourced locally, then the transportation effects will be minimal. Also, if trees used to produce the bioenergy are not replaced, then deforestation takes place. Greenhouse gases are significantly reduced using bioenergy compared to methods of producing energy from fossil fuels and other sources. When bioenergy is burnt it produces carbon dioxide, but the carbon dioxide will be balanced by photosynthesis of new replacement plants. As bioenergy uses waste products such as waste wood to produce energy, there is less waste organic material to be incinerated and put in landfill sites.
Bioenergy is produced differently depending on the source material. For plant matter biomass, bioenergy is made by burning the organic waste. This can be used to produce steam which can power a turbine to produce electricity. For animal waste biomass, bioenergy is produced from anaerobic digestion and can be used to generate steam to drive a turbine or to fuel an engine. The methane produced by landfill sites and animal waste can be used to power turbines which can be used as a form of bioenergy to generate electricity. Ethanol is produced by fermenting crops, and can be used as a type of bioenergy as biodiesel in vehicles. As bioenergy develops, and renewable energy becomes more widespread, the demand for fossil fuels will be reduced.
The argument for alternative renewable energy is clear, and as the technology progresses, more and more energy will be provided by bioenergy. From electricity produced by waste wood or crops such as olives, to cars running on fuel produced by crops, and biomass fuelled heating systems, bioenergy is here to stay, and is a very credible form of renewable energy, that is easy to use and can be produced almost anywhere in the world.