Renewable Energy: A Comprehensive Guide to Biomass

This is the second post in our new Renewable Energy series, where we will give the ins and outs of renewable energy that is able to be used throughout residential and commercial spaces.


What is it?

Biomass is simply, fuel that is developed from organic materials – a renewable, sustainable and clean source of energy used to create electricity or other forms of power. A variety of materials can make up biomass fuels, such as: scrap lumber, forest debris, certain crops, manure and other types of waste residues.

Biomass power is made from materials that are referred to as waste, meaning that if not used for this purpose, would otherwise be dumped in landfill sites or burned.

How does it work?

When the waste materials are burned, the energy is released as heat. If you already have a fireplace, you’re already participating in the use of biomass – you are burning materials to create a source of energy, heat, which is therefore biomass fuel.

Aside from the idea of just burning wood in a fireplace, all of these waste materials are heated up to produced steam that runs a turbine to make electricity, which then produces heat.

Carbon emissions?

The emissions from biomass fuels are less than those of fossil fuels. The difference between fossil fuels and biomass, is that biomass does not release any new carbon back into the atmosphere. The carbon released from biomass can be reabsorbed by other plants in their growing cycles. Fossil fuels however, release carbon that has been stored for centuries that was unavailable underground and then been added to the atmosphere. Basically, it wasn’t there before, just adding to the amount.

How is it beneficial and how beneficial is it?

Renewable energy usually holds values outside of just its power uses; biomass is no different – if fully embraced, it could tackle energy, environmental and economic needs.

Increasing biomass use would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, alongside many other advantages. Biomass’ environmental benefits include:

  • Being able to mitigate climate change
  • Reduce acid rain
  • Prevent soil erosion and water pollution
  • Minimising pressure on landfills and providing wildlife habitat.

How efficient is it?

The efficiency of biomass energy into power and heat depends largely on the various thermochemical and biochemical methods used for its conversion. Biomass is the only renewable carbon source that provides energy storage, as opposed to others than need to be produced at that time and need to be stored in batteries.

How much does it cost?

Like most things, there are different ranges of prices for biomass boilers, high-range, mid-range and low-range. The higher priced, ‘better’ and supposedly more efficient boilers cost around £10,000; the lower priced, ‘worse’ boilers cost about half of that.

To average it out, a mid-range boiler will cost around £6500, hold great efficiency (roughly 90%) and have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years.


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