27 JULY 2022

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What is biomass and how does it work?


Biomass is a type of renewable energy generated from the combustion of organic matter, which originates from different processes that occur on a daily basis. These processes can be biological (plant remains), spontaneous (tree pruning residues) or provoked (animal excrement in livestock farming).

It is a good alternative as it is a renewable fuel, neutral in terms of CO2 emissions and at a price that is competitive with fossil fuels imported from abroad. It also plays a fundamental role in improving the management of forests and in the socio-economic development of Spanish rural areas.

Biomass is nothing new, in fact, it was the main fuel for human beings until the arrival of fossil fuels. It was used for cooking, heating, making pottery, etc. Nowadays, due to its renewable nature and the energy crisis, it is regaining prominence.

To obtain usable energy from biomass, there are two main methods: thermochemical and chemical.

Thermochemical: heat to generate energy through combustion, pyrolysis, gasification and co-combustion.

Chemical: through different sources of microorganisms that degrade molecules in processes such as alcoholic and methanic fermentation. In this way, secondary biofuels with different applications are generated from organic matter.

Y…. What are the advantages and disadvantages of biomass?

The main advantages are:

  • Competitive price: Compared to oil or coal, biomass can be considered the cheapest. Its cost can be a third of the cost of other raw materials.
  • Less dependence on fossil fuels: experts are clear: biomass helps to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, most of which are expensive to extract (such as coal) and more polluting. This energy source has great potential in Spain, as there are large amounts of waste that can be used.
  • Renewable and very abundant energy source: all over the world there is a large amount of wood, waste or organic waste. Therefore, this energy source is renewable, completing a cycle that does not pollute soils and destroys waste of all kinds.

The main drawbacks:

  • Ashes are generated: if biomass is chosen, it should be noted that the burning of waste generates ashes, which increases operational costs.
  • A storage area is needed: the space taken up by biomass is large.
  • Specific maintenance: as they are not so widespread, the maintenance of these boilers is unique, requiring specific companies that specialise in maintaining biomass installations in good condition.

Undoubtedly, biomass is an energy source, which, although not yet widespread… is promising.

Find out more about renewable energies in our blog!

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