Wood was once our main fuel. We burned it to
heat our homes and cook our food.
Wood still provides a small percentage of the energy
we use, but its importance as an energy source is dwindling.
Sugar cane is grown in some areas, and can be fermented
to make alcohol, which can be burned to generate power.
Alternatively, the cane can be crushed and the pulp (called "bagasse")
can be burned, to make steam to drive turbines.
Other solid wastes, can be burned to provide heat,
or used to make steam for a power station.
"Bioconversion" uses plant and animal
wastes to produce "biofuels"
such as methanol, natural gas, and oil.
We can use rubbish, animal manure, woodchips, seaweed,
corn stalks and other wastes.
How it works
For a biomass power station making
electricity, it's pretty much like a fossil fuel power station:
For other biofuels, we may burn it to
get the heat for our home, or burn it to get energy for a car engine,
or for some other purpose.
Sugar cane is harvested and taken to
a mill, where it is crushed to extract the juice. The juice is used
to make sugar, whilst the left-over pulp, called "bagasse"
can be burned in a power station.
The station usually provides power for
the sugar mill, as well as selling electricity to the surrounding
2008: plans have just been announcedby
trhe energy company E.on for a biomass-fuelled power station Portbury,
near Bristol. The fuel would be wood, brought in by boat, and the
station would produce 150MW of electrical power. Find
- It makes sense to use waste materials where
- The fuel tends to be cheap.
- Less demand on the fossil fuels.
- Collecting or growing the fuel in sufficient
quantities can be difficult.
- We burn the biofuel, so it makes greenhouse gases
just like fossil fuels do.
- Some waste materials are not available all year
| Is it renewable?
Biomass is renewable,
as we're going to carry on making waste products anyway.
We can always plant & grow more sugar cane and more trees, so those
are renewable too.