Advantages and disadvantages of biomass energy

advantages and disadvantages of renewable biomass energy

Biomass is a unit of organic matter used as energy. This material can come from animals or plants, including organic waste. Biomass energy is cheaper than conventional energy produced from fossil fuels. In addition, it is a safer and cleaner renewable energy source than conventional fuels because it emits fewer gases that are harmful to the environment due to its combustion method. However, there are different advantages and disadvantages of biomass energy as renewable energy.

For this reason, we are going to dedicate this article to telling you what the main advantages and disadvantages of biomass energy are.

Biomass energy


Biomass is a renewable energy source that uses animal or vegetable organic matter as energy, and is a natural or industrial process, formed in a controlled biological or mechanical process. Among the types of biomass we can find three:

  • Natural biomass: It occurs in natural ecosystems without human intervention.
  • Residual biomass: refers to the organic waste generated by people's activities, such as urban solid waste, forestry, woody and herbaceous agricultural waste or industrial and agricultural waste.
  • Biomass production: Farmland cultivated for a specific species for the sole purpose of producing energy.

The advantages of biomass energy

  • It is a renewable energy source because its energy comes from the sun and from the life cycle, so it is practically inexhaustible since plant and animal activity continuously produces biomass.
  • It is less polluting than burning fossil fuels, so its use reduces carbon dioxide emissions and has less impact on the ozone layer.
  • Biomass exists anywhere on the planet and is cheaper.
  • It presents a new opportunity for the agricultural sector as energy crops replace those that have been abandoned or are no longer used for their original activities, thus preventing soil erosion and degradation.
  • There are many types of biomass.
  • Produces almost no emissions of solid particles or pollutants such as nitrogen or sulfur.
  • It contributes to the economic growth of rural areas, as well as the creation of new jobs.
  • In fact, to harness this renewable energy from biomass from energy crops, combustion must take place, with the result that carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere, which can be seen as a disadvantage. In energy crops, however, as plants grow, they capture carbon dioxide, offsetting emissions from combustion.
  • The use of waste from other activities, what we call residual biomass, contributes to recycling and waste reduction. At the end, both organic and inorganic residues are eliminated, taking advantage of them for another use.
  • The use of this energy reduces dependence on fossil fuels.

Disadvantages of biomass energy

advantages and disadvantages of biomass energy

Once we understand what the most relevant environmental and socioeconomic advantages of biomass are, this section will show the disadvantages of biomass and some of its environmental impacts:

  • Sometimes, biomass contains moisture that must be dried before it can be burned. Ultimately, this means higher power consumption when adding a process.
  • Generating the same amount of energy requires more biofuel than fossil fuels, so more space is needed to store it.
  • If the biomass is obtained through poor procedures, that is, abuse and neglect, this can lead to the destruction of natural habitats and deforestation.
  • We are dealing with a recently appeared resource that advanced technology cannot use efficiently, as is the case with liquid and solid fuels.
  • The cost of using biomass increases when transportation and storage are difficult.
  • If the combustion of biomass produces toxic substances, Combustion must take place at temperatures above 900 ºC.
  • Although biomass is ubiquitous on Earth, there is no suitable place to use it due to the large space required.

How is it used?

biomass plant

For organic remains to be a source of energy, they must go through a series of biological, thermochemical or mechanical processes. Usually a stove or boiler is used to generate it.

When biomass is converted to produce electricity, biofuels or heating, we call it "bioenergy". For example, when organic waste is used for heating, bioethanol or biodiesel is used in the car industry, biokerosene is used in aircraft, steam or thermal energy is used in the industrial sector, or biofuels are used in transport.

Biomass can be used through the following processes:

  • Burning This process takes place in power plants to generate heat or electricity.
  • Digestion. This process is carried out by certain bacteria to produce gas.
  • Fermentation. During this process, certain organic waste is fermented to produce fuel.
  • Heat or deflate. These processes are used to generate electricity or products in different sequences.

Types of biomass

Taking into account the raw materials used for production, three different types of biomass can be identified:

  • remaining biomass. It is produced by the waste from certain human activities. Some of its benefits are that it helps reduce the number of landfills, reduces the possibility of pollution and fires, and is an economical option.
  • Agricultural surplus. Cereals that are not used for animal or human food are used as biofuels or to generate electricity. Some of the leftovers used are almond shells, animal bones, or trimmed scraps.
  • Occurs in natural ecosystems without human intervention. Plantation residues, branches, conifers, firewood, hardwoods or sawmill waste can be used. In order not to harm the environment, they should not be widely used.
  • Energy crops. The energy comes from crops produced especially for her. These crops are characterized by their resistance and ability to adapt to rough terrain. In this group are sorghum, sugar cane, cereals, potato and cynara among others.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of biomass energy.

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