Sunday, April 26, 2009

Oregon's Power Potential (7/8) Biomass

Biomass Energy

Biomass energy is burning plant and organic matter to generate electricity. The biomass may be burned directly or converted into another fuel like pellets or gas before being burned. Biomass sources include wood, landfill gas, manure, and municipal solid waste.

Currently, Oregon has biomass plants located near existing timber operations. They harvest the otherwise unusable scraps and sawdust.

Proponents claim this decreases forest fire danger and that wood burning biomass is carbon neutral because it is not fossil CO2 and the released CO2 is re-absorbed into nearby trees.

Sorry, it is not carbon neutral. The released CO2 was not in the atmosphere, and now it is. That is not carbon neutral. I have a fundamental problem listing the burning of trees as a sustainable method of energy production. I'd prefer to see these scraps used in cardboard, particle board or another product.

As for harvesting landfill gas and livestock manure gases - these are "free" by-products of the existing industry's. Burning these gases converts the gas from methane to CO2. Methane is a much more harmful greenhouse gas. So go ahead and burn it and make some electricity.

Biomass is obviously not a method that can be scaled to solve any significant portion of our growing power needs, but taking advantage of it where there are 'free' methane sources is smart.

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