Biomass Energy Advantages and Disadvantages
Biomass Energy Advantages and Disadvantages

Biomass Energy Advantages and Disadvantages

In recent years, the most dynamic development in the renewable energy sector in the Philippines has been photovoltaic installations and heat pumps. This is mainly due to a significant reduction in expenses for equipment purchase and, equally important, higher alternative costs: electricity or heating.

Meanwhile, according to the report of the International Renewable Energy Agency, by 2030, biomass will be the source of 60% of the world’s renewable energy. In this article, I will answer the question of what biomass is. I will explain what types of energy there are and analyze the advantages and disadvantages of biomass.

Renewable energy at your fingertips

Global energy demand increases every year. Resources of fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas are constantly decreasing. All this causes modern people to look for alternative resources to meet current and future energy demands. Such sources include primarily:

Wind energy,
The energy of the sun,
Tidal energy,
The energy of falling water,
Geothermal energy,

Biomass is considered the world’s first fuel. Before humanity began to extract and use non-renewable raw materials, wood was used to produce heat.

Today, almost half of the green energy produced comes from the biomass of wood products. The latest data from the Energy Market Agency show that the installed capacity in biomass power plants has increased by over 6% yearly and is approaching 1,000 MW. After photovoltaics and wind farms these are the most frequently used renewable energy sources.

Definition of Biomass

There is no single, unified definition of this concept. Each legal act constituting the framework for the functioning of the biomass energy market formulates its definition. For this article, we will quote the provisions included in the latest Renewable Energy Sources Act update.

The critical feature of biomass emerges from the above definition – it occurs in various states of matter.

Types of energy from biomass

Biomass energy can be classified in many ways. Considering its origin, we distinguish forest biomass, agricultural biomass, or organic waste. In the literature on the subject, you can often find a division into primary, secondary, and processed raw materials. From the point of view of economic practice, the assignment based on the state of concentration is crucial. We distinguish:

Biomass as a solid form,
Biofuel as a liquid form,
Biogas is a gaseous form.

What is Biomass

The most frequently used products for biomass energy production are briquettes and pellets. They are made from sawdust, shavings, sewage sludge, compost, or straw. Compact or prepared as granules, they heat houses in specially adapted boilers.

What is biofuel made of, and where is it used?

Liquid biofuels are typically obtained by fermentation and distillation from any feedstock containing significant amounts of sugar (e.g. sugar cane or sugar beet) or starch (e.g. corn, wheat, or cassava). In this way, ethanol and biodiesel, among others, are produced. Biobutanol is also an essential type of biofuel. The listed energy sources are commonly used:

In chainsaw and lawn mower engines,
In diesel engines of passenger cars and trucks,
In aviation devices,
In heat production in construction,
To power implantable medical devices such as glucose biosensors.
To remove organic compounds from the waste stream.

What is Biogas

Biogas is the product of anaerobic fermentation of organic matter. Its production uses raw materials from household and industrial waste, animal excrement, sewage sludge, and plants from energy crops.

Ready biogas consists mainly of methane and carbon dioxide but also contains trace amounts of other gases, such as hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and siloxanes. It is used to generate heat energy and electricity.

How is Biomass Energy Produced?

How does it happen that energy is created from the mass of shavings and sawdust? To explain this, we have to go back to our school days. There, during biology lessons, we were taught what photosynthesis was. The definition says that plants take water from the soil and carbon dioxide from the air to function correctly.

Then, under the influence of solar radiation, glucose and oxygen molecules are created from water and carbon dioxide molecules. Plants release the latter into the atmosphere.

The glucose molecules created in this way provide organisms with energy and carbon to build cells and tissues. Coal, the building material of plants, can produce heat and electricity.

In the simplest example (solid form), biomass combustion generates energy. The water heated in the first circuit goes to the exchanger to obtain heat. Part of the energy is sent there to the second cycle, where water supplied to offices, warehouses, and residential buildings flows. After cooling, the water from the first circuit goes back to the boiler, starting the entire process from the beginning.

Current is obtained on a similar principle. The biomass combustion in the boiler activates the turbine, where thermal energy is transformed into mechanical energy. In the next step, the generator converts mechanical energy into electricity. The electricity generated in this way can power a refrigerator, computer, washing machine, or technological lines.

Energy Obtained From Crops

Biomass is obtained from leftovers and waste disposal of organic origin. In this way, products not used for the appropriate processes in a given industry can be used for other purposes. But that’s not all.

Investors appreciate the numerous advantages of burning biomass. For this reason, they are willing to allocate their resources to develop energy crops. After harvesting, they are not used for food but are sold to power plants. When choosing a specific species, the key properties of the plant include:

Large annual growth,
Pest resistance,
Possibility of use on lower quality soils,
High calorific value.

Taking into account these factors and the characteristics of a given space, the most frequently cultivated are willow (calorific value 19.23 MJ/kg), knotweed (calorific value 17.2 MJ/kg), corn (calorific value 17.3 MJ/kg), tuberous sunflower (calorific value 15.31 MJ/kg), miscanthus giant (calorific value 16.28 MJ/kg) and hybrid poplar (calorific value 18.76 MJ/kg).

Biomass Advantages and Disadvantages

The balance of advantages and disadvantages of using biomass for energy purposes is positive. The product in question is environmentally friendly. Burning biomass does not cause additional carbon dioxide emissions. The amount of gas is the same as that taken up by plants in photosynthesis. It is also worth noting that there are lower sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide emissions during energy production than when burning coal.

What Are The Other Advantages Of Biomass?

1. Its production allows you to optimize food surpluses, manage production waste from the forestry and agricultural industries, and dispose of municipal waste.
2. It is widely available.
3. Energy production does not depend on random factors like wind power or solar radiation.
4. Storage and transport do not generate any environmentally burdensome consequences. For example, there is no risk of leakage and water contamination.
5. Collecting biomass from forest areas and pastures minimizes the fire risk.
6. Crops make it possible to utilize lower-class soil, including post-industrial areas.
7. Due to the possibility of using waste, infertile land, or non-specialized means of transport, biomass is relatively cheap.
8. No need to make significant technological investments.
9. The resulting ash can be further used as fertilizer for cultivating other energy crops.

Does Burning Biomass for Energy Have Any Disadvantages?

Basically no. However, it is worth emphasizing two issues that affect the final profitability of the manufacturing process.

The first is storage. For biomass to obtain the highest properties, it should be dry. The more moist the material intended for combustion, the lower its productivity. For this reason, the stage of storage in appropriate conditions is crucial.

The second issue is the efficiency of the heat source. By burning two tons of biomass, we obtain an energy value similar to one ton of hard coal.

Therefore, to provide heat in a single-family house, it will be necessary to purchase a more significant amount of biomass than would be required in the case of coal.

Biomass for Households and Companies

Prices of energy raw materials have increased significantly in the last year. Of course, if this one is available. Similar trends are observed in the eco-pea coal and gas markets.

Therefore, Philippines residents are looking for an effective alternative to reduce heating costs for their homes or offices. The choice very often falls on specialized boilers for burning briquettes and pellets. This solution allows you to generate savings in the long run, is ecological, and is supported by subsidy programs.

Where to get biomass?

There are many possibilities. If we have unused land, growing energy crops is a good idea. In other cases, ready-made granules or cubes can be purchased in large-format stores or at the biomass exchange.


Biomass is one type of renewable energy source. It is a relatively easily accessible, ecological, and economical energy source. Biomass is often associated with a solid product – briquettes or pellets used to heat houses and office spaces.

Biofuels and biogases are available on the market which have much wider applications. Biomass is obtained from lump wood, bark, sawdust, cultivated plants, algae, waste yeast, pomace, sewage sludge, and manure from pig farms. The use of biomass expresses concern for the quality of the natural environment.

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