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Published: 27-Feb-2018 Last Edited: 10-Mar-2018

As the world is facing a severe problem of scarcity of the conventional sources of energy, there is need of different non-conventional and sustainable sources of energy. In relation to this the paper is presenting an important type of non conventional source of energy namely biomass.

The paper is aimed to describe various pros and cons of the biomass as a source of energy. The first section of the paper presenting a brief introduction of the topic so that the reader can be much familiar with topic. In this introduction a rough sketch of the present scenario of the world related to consumption pattern of various sources of energy is drawn.

The next section of the paper is aimed to reveal the differences between conventional and biomass sources of energy. In this sections, a brief introduction about the biomass is presented. The next section of the paper is describing different type of biomass which is generally be used for the production of energy. Further, in the next section of the paper various strengths of the biomass sources of energy is detailed.

Certain weaknesses of these type of sources are also there which is detailed in the next section. Furthermore, there are certain issues also which are also needed to be addressed. This issues are also detailed in the paper. At last all the major findings are summarized in the last section of the paper i.e. conclusion.

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Introduction

In today's scenario, there are several issues in front of the world's society which are very crucial. Availability of the sources of energy is one of the important issues. The world is facing a strong threat related with production of energy and sources of the energy. As the technology is progressing rapidly, the need of the energy is increasing is also at fast pace. But the source of the energy is very limited.

The conventional sources of the energy for example coal, petroleum, firewood and many more. But the main disadvantage related to these types of sources is that the conventional sources of energy are limited and non-renewable. Because of this reason the excessive usage of these sources present a major threat of scarcity of energy in the future perspective.

This threat related to energy sources calls for serious attention of the scientists and researchers. In relation to this, scientists and researchers are trying to search new, innovative and non conventional sources of energy. There are number of non conventional sources of energy which is generally used in today's scenario.

These non conventional sources are including solar energy, wind energy, hydro energy, bio-energy, etc. There are number of different advantages and disadvantage related to usage of these sources. As these sources are new for the international society, a number of different issues are also engaged with these types of sources of energy.

These sources are renewable and reusable. Furthermore, in the list of non-conventional sources of energy, bio-energy is one of the most prominent types of energy which is generated by bio-mass. The usage of bio-mass as the source of energy has emerged as an important topic for debate in front of the scholars and researchers across the globe.

There are number of important issues related with the topic. There are various strengths of this source of energy because of which the source is recommended and preferred to conventional sources of energy by the researchers and scientists. Vis-a-Vis there are also some weakness of this source of energy which is making use of this source of energy more complex and difficult (Biomass, 2010).

The paper is aimed to present an analysis of the bio-mass as the source of energy. For this purpose, various strength and weakness of bio-fuel are detailed in the paperwork. The paperwork is also trying to make it clear that whether the usage of bio-mass will be beneficial for international society or it is just a wastage of time and money, which is spend heavily in the research and development of the bio-mass as an source of energy.

Further, the strengths and weakness of the bio-mass are detailed in the context of the conventional sources of energy, so that the clear comparison between the conventional sources of energy and the bio-mass energy can be carried out, clearly.

The paper is also aimed to detail some of the important issues related to the usage of bio-mass as a non-conventional sources of energy. The paperwork is providing some important insight information related with bio-mass and concerned issues, so that the reader can get the comprehensive knowledge about the topic.

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Conventional sources of energy VS. Bio-mass

Conventional sources of the energy are the sources of energy, which are used by human society traditionally. These are the sources which are provided by the nature and are limited in quantity. These are the non-reusable sources of energy which implies that once these sources get over, there is no possibility of regaining these sources. These conventional sources of the energy include coal, lignite, peat, petroleum, and natural gas. These sources have been primarily used for obtaining energy to provide heat, light, and power for many years.

On the other hand, Bio-mass is an inevitable form of non-conventional source of energy. This is a renewable source of energy. Basically, through this type of source, biological energy is primarily used for the production of heat or generation of electricity.

For this purpose, different biological matter from living and recently dead biological organisms is extracted in various different forms such as wood, alcoholic fuel, biological wastage, hydrogen gas, etc.

Fundamentally, the Bio-mass is recognized as various matters extracted from the living plant. This plant driven materials which are the used as the source of energy is mainly the product of photosynthetic reaction. Besides it, woody plants, remainders of farming, residues of forestry such as dead trees, dry leaves, dry branches of tree, etc.

which can be used for burning as fuel, various organic compounds from the living organism and industrial wastes. Earlier, the biomass was used in the form of firewood but in today’s scenario the other forms of biomass such as wood, dugs, forestry and agricultural wastage is also used widely as the important source of energy.

Biomass is actually the form of all the organisms on the earth. Biomass is also included as the wastage of the living plant and animal organism. The biomass converts the solar energy into chemical energy. The biomass collects and stores the energy from the sun i.e.

solar energy. When the Biomass is used, this solar energy is subjected to convert in the form of chemical or thermal energy. In the case when the biomass is subjected to burn, eat and digest, the energy of the biomass is subjected to release.

The energy which is released from the biomass is known as the bio-energy. This form of energy can be used in various general and specific usage such as heating, cooking, generation of electricity, lightning. But now in today's scenario, the span of Biomass energy is subjected to increase.

Earlier, the Biomass energy was used primarily in the rural areas. Because of a number of advantages of the biomass energy, the usage of the biomass energy is significantly, increasing in urban areas, small and medium scale industry (Biomass, 2010).

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Types of Biomass energy

As it is mentioned earlier, the span of Biomass energy has become much broader and number of different forms of Biomass energy is also available. The biomass energy primarily can be divided in five different and important classes which are detailed below:

  • Virgin Wood - Basically, Virgin wood is known as the woods and other woody matters of plants such as branches, barks and trunks, wood chips and sawdust. In this type of wood, there is no kind of chemical treatments exposed for finishing. This type of wood contains only natural substances. Various physical and chemical characteristics of this type of woods vary according to their source plant.
    Physically, the virgin wood is natural, untreated and clean. Because of the harvesting and growing process various physical inclusions such as mud, stones, etc are also included with these type of woody material. Further, in the absence of any external treatment, there are various internal chemical stuffs from the soil, water, air and various different pesticides in the form of heavy metals, halogens and minerals are also found in this type of wood. But the level of these types of chemical agents in the wood is very low.
  • Energy crops - Energy crops are the crops which are cultivated for the purpose of obtaining biological fuel in the form of biological petrol. There are number of different crops which are farmed because of their fuel value. These energy crops are also including various food crops such as sugarcane, corn and many other non food crops for example, various popular woody tree and switch grasses such as Miscanthus and Pennisetum purpureum (elephant grass). The farming of various different energy crops requires low investments and maintenance. These energy crops contains higher amount of carbohydrate content. Because of this reasons, various energy crops including maize, Sudan grass are used for the production of Bio gas.
  • Agricultural residues - In this category, various different remainders, from the agriculture are included. There are two different types of residues of Agriculture namely dry residues and wet residues. In the dry residues category, various substances that have minimum content of water such as straws, dry crop, where the wet residues consists of the substances that are having water contents such as animal slurry.
  • Food waste - These are the wastes of food which take place in hotels, restaurants and individual houses. Again, this type of biomass can be differentiated in two different categories namely dry and wet wastage. These wastages have higher degree of carbohydrate contents. For this reason, this can be used primarily for the production of bio-gas.
  • Industrial waste and co-products - There are various woody and non-woody materials which are produced as the byproducts of various industrial processes and manufacturing operations. Theses co-products are the industrial wastages which can be used as biomass fuel (What is BIOMASS?, 2008).

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Strengths of biomass fuel

The usage of biomass as the prominent source of energy is increasing rapidly day by day. There are several prominent strengths of the biomass fuel because of this the biomass is preferred over the conventional sources of energy. These strengths are detailed below:

  • Less Pollutive source of energy - Increasing rate of pollution is the major reason for worry in front of the world society. Because of the increasing pollution, a number of environmental problems such as green house effect, increasing temperature of the earth and climate change. The usage of fossil fuel or petroleum product is the main reason for the air pollution. When, the fossil fuel is used, it leaves a higher amount of carbon footprint in the air.
    The usage of biomass sources of energy leads to less carbon prints in the environments as compared to conventional sources of energy. Further, the biomass sources of energy emit less harmful gases in the environment. Especially less emission of sulfur, which are very harmful for the human society from the health perspective, in the environment takes place in the case of biomass energy. For this prominent reason, the biomass energy is used widely.
  • Cost efficiency - The biomass sources of energy are comparatively more cost efficient then the conventional sources of energy. Less expensive setup is required for the production of energy from the biomass sources. Furthermore, when biomass is oxidized for the production of energy, it produces less ash in comparison to coal. Less production of ash leads to less disposal cost. It also helps the industries to cut down their requirements of land where this ash can be dumped.
    Due to this reason for industrial purpose, bio-mass is now preferred and recommended in place of coal. Further, the ash produced because of combustion of biomass is not as much harmful as ash from coal combustion. Moreover, the biomass ash is also having various recycled benefits, because of which the ash is used for amendment of soil in farm land.
  • Effective and efficient use of wastes - Various biological wastes are the prominent source of biomass energy. This implies that for the production of biomass energy there is no need of specific raw material. Various biological products which are generally considered as garbage and wastes can be used for the production of energy. In today's environment a million of ton garbage is produced from livestock’s, agriculture, industrial or manufacturing process and households. Dumping of this waste or garbage is the complex problem. This garbage is used for the production of biomass energy. There is a plenty of availability of this type of biological wastes, thus the production of the biomass has become easier in comparison to various conventional sources of energy such as fossil fuel, natural gas, etc. which is available in limited amount.
  • Support of government - The biomass energy contains a number of different advantages. These are also providing a number of different benefits to the government and society. For this purpose, this type of energy sources is promoted by the government. The government is making a lot of efforts for making the biomass energy popular. For encouraging the cultivation of energy crops, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is running a Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Through this program, the government is also trying to control soil erosion and chemical run off.
    The government has marked the land under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) which is especially reserved for the energy crops on which the crop other than energy crop will not be permitted. Because of the strong support of the government, the biomass energy sources have plenty of opportunity for the future perspective. In conditions where the world is facing severe threats related to scarcity of the conventional sources of energy such as petroleum products, the sources of biomass energy can be proved as the important and most economic sources of energy for the government.
  • Social and political supports - Various sources of biomass energy are also backed by the social and political environment of the country. As the climate change has emerged as a serious issue in front of the international society, there is a kind of political pressure on each and every country for decreasing the level of pollutions. In this scenario, the countries are supporting the means of non conventional energy such as biomass.
    At the social perspective also, the usage of bio mass energy sources contain greater strengths. The biomass energy sources are more popular in the rural areas than conventional sources of energy. These sources are supported by socialist also because these sources create and retain more jobs in the rural economy. It also encourages the agricultural practices which lead to providing full time employment to people of rural areas.
    Furthermore, the agriculture of the energy crops provides a sort of diversity to the farmer, because of which the dependency of farmer over a particular type of crop decreases. The agriculture of these types of crop is relatively cheaper. These types of crop also have high resistance against diseases. All these reasons impose farmers to farm these types of energy crops (Environmental and Social Benefits/Costs of Biomass Plantations, n.d.). In this way, these all presented strengths of biomass over conventional sources of energy provide a broad scope of non-conventional source of energy.
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Weakness of biomass

In the above section of the paper, a number of different strengths of biomass are described. But as every coin has two different parts, biomass energy is also having certain disadvantages which become the prominent weakness of this type of non-conventional source of energy. Because of these disadvantages, despite of having a number of different advantages over conventional sources of energy, the biomass sources of energy is not as much as popular as other sources of energy. Some of prominent weaknesses of the biomass energy and its sources are listed below:

  • Availability of biomass crops - The biggest and up most weakness of biomass is that various energy crops which are the major sources of biomass energy can not be available for the whole year. As like the other agricultural crops, a particular energy crop can only be grown in a particular season of the year. Further, various woody trees are very slow growing by nature. Because of these reasons, the availability has become one of the most prominent weaknesses of biomass energy sources. Where as the conventional sources of the energy such as petrol, natural gas and coal are not seasonable and can be retrieved at any season of the year however the quantity of these types of sources is limited.
  • Collection of biomass - as it is mentioned earlier that animal and industrial waste and garbage can be used for the production of biomass energy, it is necessary to collect these waste and garbage. But the collection of these type of waste is not an easy task. It demands for a lot of efforts from government and people. For the collection of the waste the administration of cities must employ pre-specified drainage and sewerage system, which leads to extra expenses of government.
  • Requirement of agricultural land - For farming of the energy crops there is a requirement of the land. In today's scenario where it becomes difficult to provide adequate living space due to increasing population, it is very hard to provide adequate space for farming such type of crops. For replacing the fossil fuel with the bio fuel there is need of a vast agricultural land. This agricultural land can also be used for the feeding a large population of the world.
  • Extra cost for processing the waste - Not only collection of wastes and garbage is a critical task, but the further process and recycling of this waste is also a complex task. There is need of installing various new technologies for compacting, splintering and shredding biomass which is available in the huge quantity. These new technologies are costly. Because of this reason the establishment of the biomass energy project is not and easy task .
  • Unawareness about the source - In the present scenario, the level of awareness among common people about the biomass energy sources is very is low. Although, the government is employing various projects for encouraging the usage of biomass energy but still people prefer to use the conventional sources of energy because these sources are easily available and ready-for-use.
  • Low energy density - various researchses and studies have shown the energy density which is provided by biofuel is less then the energy density which is provided by conventional sources of energy such as coal, petroleum products and natural gas. This implies that higher amount of biomass is needed for the production of energy.
  • Emission of greenhouse gases - The biomass is an organic matter which is used for the production of energy and when an organic compound burns, it emits the carbon-di-oxide. Which is an greenhouse gas. Because of this reason the biomass is also a source of air pollution. For avoiding this problem, there is a need of a special kind of technology which is known as Exhaust gas cleaning technology. But such type of technologies are not as much efficient and economical viable in the case of small energy plants.
  • Transportation - Furthermore, the transportation of biomass energy sources is not as much easy as conventional sources of energy such as coal (Biomass Energy Disadvantages, n.d.). These are some important weaknesses of the biomass fuel which are the main cause of less popularity of these type of energy sources In comparison to various conventional sources of energy.

Public issues related with the usage of biomass as a source of energy

There are a lot of advantages and disadvantage related with the biomass energy sources. There are different public issues are also engaged with the use biomass energy source which are needed to be considered by the government of country. First of all, the issue related with sustainability of these type of energy sources.

There is a need of highly and well diversified biological ecosystem and high level of forestry and agricultural production so that adequate stock of organic matter can be available. For this reason, the deforestation and degradation of forest is growing rapidly. This scenario raise an important issue related with the management and governance of forest especially in the developing countries.

The excessive usage of the land is also put an important issue in front of the international society. For increasing the usage of the biomass sources of the energy, there is need of a vast agricultural land. This requirement calls for the deforestation and use of agricultural land for the production of various types of energy crops in place of crops which are necessary for feeding of a large population.

The excessive usage of the land for the production of energy crops also results into the decreased productivity of the land which is very harmful for the farmer. The government need to take some steps for addressing this issue in the most efficient manner (Sustainability of Biomass: Report, 2010).

Furthermore, identifying the role of biomass sources in the country's future energy projects is also an important point which needs a lots of considerations and efforts of the government. How much investment will be adequate for biomass energy product, how much benefit, the country can have with help of these sources, which entity will be benefited the most by the employment of this projects, what will be the outcomes and problems related with projects how it can be overcome? These are some questions which are needed to be answered by the government of the country (Lynd, 2007).

Conclusion

Biomass sources of energy are important type of non conventional sources of energy. The paper has presented various different aspects related to this type of sources of energy. On the basis of the review of the paper, it can be concluded that the biomass energy sources can be an important means for answering various different environmental challenges which are presenting a major threat in-front of the international society.

In present situation, because of the increasing need of energy, the usage conventional sources of energy is also subjected to increase rapidly. But these conventional sources such as petrol, natural gas, coal and fossil fuel is found in limited quantity in the nature. Because of this there is a need of a more sustainable source of energy.

For accomplishing this need, biomass energy sources can be a prominent option. Biomass energy is produces with the help of various organic matter which is extracted from living or dead organism. For this purpose, the waste and garbage of living animals and industries are also very important raw material for the production of the biomass energy. In the paper there are several advantages and strengths of this type of source of energy also described. These strengths are the characteristics of the biomass sources of energy which make the sources more valuable and unique.

Further, there are certain shortcomings and weaknesses of this type of sources of the energy such as availability, transportation, collection and many more also detailed in the paper. For making the sources more viable and feasible, it is necessary to find solution of these problems. There are several public related issues also engaged with the usage of this type of sources of energy. For the better and efficient usage of this type of energy the government should address these issues in well and efficient manner.

References

  1. Biomass Energy Disadvantages. (n.d.). Retrieved, November 25, 2010, from http://www.alternative-energy-resources.net/biomass-energy-disadvantages.html
  2. BIOMASS. (2010). Retrieved, November 25, 2010, from http://www.climate.org/topics/clean-energy/biomass.html
  3. Environmental and Social Benefits/Costs of Biomass Plantations. (n.d.). Retrieved, November 25, 2010, from http://bioenergy.ornl.gov/reports/fuelwood/chap4.html
  4. Lynd, L. (2007). Testimony Before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Retrieved, November 25, 2010, from http://engineering.dartmouth.edu/biomass/LyndSenateAg07-3.pdf
  5. Sustainability of Biomass: Report. (2010). Retrieved, November 25, 2010, from http://www.euissuetracker.com/en/focus/Pages/Sustainability-of-Biomass-Report.aspx
  6. What is BIOMASS? (2008). Retrieved, November 25, 2010, from http://www.biomassenergycentre.org.uk/portal/page?pageid=75,17304&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL

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