What is Biomass and Where Does It Come From?
Biomass – organic matter, especially plant matter that can be converted to fuel and is therefore regarded as a potential energy source.

Biomass is carbon based and the carbon used in its construction is absorbed from the atmosphere as carbon dioxide by plant life, using energy from the sun. Biomass is composed of a mixture of organic molecules containing hydrogen. Atoms of oxygen, often nitrogen and also small quantities of other atoms including alkali, alkaline earth and heavy metal are also included.

Wood is a major factor in biomass. The largest source from the wood is the pulping liquor or “black liquor”, a waste product from processes of the pulp, paper and paperboard industry. The main advantage of wood is that it is a renewable resource. We can always grow trees which allow us to have a sustainable and dependable supply.

The next largest would be waste energy. The main contributors to waste energy are municipal solid waste, manufacturing waste and landfill gas. Waste will always be present and people produce more waste each year. Today, about 4.5 pounds of trash is disposed of daily. Organic waste, that provided by animals or plants contain energy. There are about 90 waste-to-energy companies in the United States. The electricity generated in the facilities is enough to supply almost 3 million households. The Environmental Protection Agency does require these companies to use anti-pollution devices, including scrubbers, fabric fillers, andelectrostatic precipitators. Agricultural by-products are also referred to as biomass. Straw, grain husks, forest products, waste wood and animal wastes, also known as slurry, are some examples of these by-products.

Biomass alcohol fuel or ethanol is derived almost exclusively from corn. Bioethanol is made by fermentingthe sugar components of plant materials, made mostly from sugar and starch crops. These biofuels are gaining increased public as well as scientific attention by factors such as increases in oil as well as the need for increased energy security. Just imagine not having to worry about the next oil spike when you refuel your car.

In North America, one of the largest biomass power plants is New Hope Power Partnership. This plant is 140 MW(mega-watts) and it uses sugar cane fiber and recycled urban wood as fuel to generate enough power for not only its milling and refining operations, but also enough to supply renewable electricity for nearly 60,000 homes.

Biomass is considered a renewable energy source because we can always grow more trees as well as crops. Using biomass for energy may cut back on waste and the emission of greenhouse gases.