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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Biomass

Biomass is another of those topics that is becoming more and more interesting these days. Basically, there are two ways in which biomass may be used directly: Direct combustion to produce heat or power and gasification to produce a gas that can be used to power vehicles etc. The version chosen will depend on the needs of the local industry. Biomass can also be used to feed a methane digester, but we are talking about the direct uses here. Biomass can be defined as any waste vegetable matter, such as straw, wood branches or other leftovers, very similar to what our ancestors were burning 10000 years ago. So what has changed? Modern combustion technology can use this biomass to produce electricity on a small scale without leaving a trail of smoke across the landscape, supplying a single village or smaller group of houses with their own power. The combination of a combustion plant with a gasification unit is equally possible, allowing a number of vehicles to be run without the need for imported gasoline. Biomass is the up and coming technology in many outlying areas in Europe, where the supply of piped fuel is not available and liquid fuel must come a long way across difficult terrain.

Renewable energy is a recognised goal for the future, and one of the most successful routes is via the use of fuels that can be grown or collected from nature, where they will be replaced in a reasonable period of time. Perhaps the best description is “second-hand solar energy”.



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