What is Bioenergy
“Bioenergy” is use of any organic material, such as forest thinnings, residues, agricultural waste or urban wood waste, to generate heating, cooling and/or electricity. Many independent power producers across the United States and Canada produce electricity for the grid using bioenergy. Hospitals, college campuses, school districts and government buildings also use bioenergy for heat and electricity. Thousands of American homes and businesses have installed stoves and other appliances powered by wood pellets, reducing their heating costs. Working farms and other businesses with organic waste products recycle their “leftovers” to power or heat their facilities.
In addition to serving as a domestic energy source, bioenergy is responsible for sustaining tens of thousands of jobs, many of them in rural communities where they are most needed. Bioenergy’s many stakeholders work closely together to keep American forests healthy and put organic byproducts like forest trimmings, industry byproducts and agricultural residuals to good use.
Bioenergy comes in many forms, including:
Power plants across the country use wood residues as a fuel to generate electricity. These plants are often found in heavily forested areas with a local timber industry. In addition to wood chips, they also use other organic materials that have a low value and cannot be used in the forest products market, such as urban wood waste, which in many cases would be landfilled if not used for bioenergy. Biomass power facilities can be large enough to power tens of thousands of homes and businesses in an area, or small enough to power a college campus.
Learn more at www.usabiomass.org
Residential Heating and Other Appliances
Pellet mills, also located in heavily forested areas, produce a small, densified product called wood pellets that can be used as fuel for residential home heating stoves and other appliances. Wood pellets can also be used as a fuel source to heat larger areas like school campuses or even federal buildings like the Washington County Courthouse in Barre, Vermont.
Biomass power is valued as an important renewable energy source for many countries in Europe. In countries like the United Kingdom, Belgium and Denmark, meeting ambitious national renewable energy standards would be difficult without the use of bioenergy. Rather than the wood residues typically used by American biomass facilities, overseas facilities use densified wood pellets produced from low value wood from sustainable forest management activities such as forest thinning operations. Forest thinning operations remove smaller trees to make more room and free up light and water to grow bigger, higher value, trees. Most European countries mandate that the pellets must come from sustainably managed forests.
Learn more at www.theusipa.org
Waste materials from production
In addition to these essential forms of bioenergy, many farms and industrial operations use bioenergy to power their facilities. In these cases, the fuel for bioenergy is often composed of waste materials from production itself. For instance, Anheuser-Busch’s Bio-Energy Recovery System (BERS) uses wastewater from brewing production to create a biogas responsible for generating nearly 10 percent of the company’s fuel needs for its U.S. facilities.
Biomass is the only renewable energy source that can offer a viable substitute for petroleum-based liquid transportation fuels—such as gasoline, jet, and diesel fuel—in the near term. It can also be used to produce valuable chemicals for manufacturing, as well as to supply power for our electrical grid. The current challenge in bioenergy development is to efficiently convert algae and cellulosic biomass into renewable fuels that are compatible with today’s vehicles and infrastructure.
The Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the U.S. Department of Energy, is focused on developing technologies to efficiently convert plant-based, non-food biomass into biofuels and bioproducts that can directly replace those created from petroleum. BETO envisions a thriving and sustainable bioeconomy fueled by innovative technologies. A robust bioenergy industry will generate a variety of U.S. jobs across several sectors, reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and help address growing concerns about climate change.
Waste materials from production
Biogas systems use anaerobic digestion to recycle organic waste, turning it into biogas, for energy (the gas), and valuable soil products (liquid and solids), using a natural, biological process. After simple processing, biogas is a renewable substitute for natural gas, and the digested materials—the liquid and solids—can be turned into a wide variety of useful soil products, similar or identical to peat moss, pellets and finished compost. Biogas systems can also recover nutrients helping to protect waterways from runoff and preventing over fertilization to increase nitrogen levels in soil. What counts as organic waste? Manure from dairies, sludge filtered from wastewater, municipal solid waste, food waste, yard clippings, crop residues and more.
Find out more: http://www.americanbiogascouncil.org/