What is it?
All of the Earth’s living material or ‘biomass’ exists in a thin layer around the surface of the planet. This is called the biosphere. It is a huge store of energy that is continually replenished by the Sun through photosynthesis.
How is it used to generate electricity?
Biomass is any plant or animal matter, including plant and animal waste and human sewage. Energy crops are plants grown specifically for fuel. Biomass is burnt directly in boilers to produce steam, which turns a turbine and generator to make electricity.
Human sewage can be broken down to produce methane, which can also be burnt to produce heat and electricity.
Where can you find it?
It is all around us.
Advantages and disadvantages of using biomass to generate electricity
- It is renewable – new plants and trees can be grown to replace those used for fuel
- It supports farmers and foresters by providing markets for their crops
- It is a carbon neutral source of energy. This means that the amount of carbon dioxide released when the fuel is burnt is the same as the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the plants when they were growing
- It is an expensive method of generating electricity
- Biomass power plants need to be built near a plentiful supply of biomass fuel
How many power stations in the UK?
Most coal-fired power stations now co-fire a percentage of biomass in the fuel. A number of dedicated biomass power plants up to 44MW are currently generating in the UK.
As it becomes easier to collect, process and convert, biomass will become an increasingly popular option.
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