An organic material made from plants and animals. Biomass contains stored energy from the sun.
Biomass alternative energy may be one of the most commonly used energy sources of the future. This is because the world will always have municipal waste and waste food, and unless these biomass sources are used for energy they will end up taking space in a landfill somewhere and causing an increase in greenhouse gases and air pollution.
Biomass is an attractive petroleum alternative because it is a renewable source that is more evenly distributed over the earth`s surface than finite energy sources.
Plant material such as wood or hay can be burned to provide heat to raise steam and so generate electricity in a power station. Crops can be grown as energy crops rather than food crops. About 32 per cent of the seed is oil. After treatment with chemicals it can be used as a fuel in diesel engines, called RME (rape methyl ester).
About 200 years ago biomass in the form of wood was the major source of energy. In many parts of the developing world biomass (not always from trees) is still the major source of energy.
Advantages: Biomass is a renewable resource – for example, trees can be replanted or coppiced. Energy can be extracted from wastes. Biomass energy can be used in similar ways to fossil fuels. Sources of biomass are readily available worldwide. Disadvantages: Biomass energy sources are no more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels because they recycle carbon into the atmosphere when they are burned. Carbon dioxide, which is produced when these fuels are burned, is a major cause of the greenhouse effect.