If you are considering switching your heating system to biomass then you have probably heard it referred to as a sustainable energy source, green and low in pollutants. But you could be forgiven for wondering how it is sustainable, what it even means and if it is a viable long-term solution for your business or home’s energy needs.
What is biomass fuel?
Biomass fuels can actually be derived from a variety of sources. These can include crop residues, wood waste (sawdust), urban wood waste (recycled untreated wood and paper), forest residues and short rotation or replanted coppiced forests. The most common available in the UK comes from the latter – sustainable wood growth forests.
Biomass is considered renewable because the plant material used to create it can be regrown and the carbon dioxide produced in burning it is re-absorbed by plant life, so it is carbon neutral when burned. Burning fossil fuels such as oil or gas release carbon into the atmosphere which has been stored for millions of years and therefore remains in the atmosphere and increases planetary temperatures.
Fossil fuels take thousands, if not millions of years to produce and therefore this makes them finite and unsustainable.
The only factor that effects the sustainability of biomass is the management of the fuel source, such as the replanting of forests.
How efficient is biomass vs solar and wind?
Whilst lots of research continues and many debates still go on studies have proven that biomass is a highly efficient fuel source.
Biomass energy production is around 75-80% efficient whilst electricity production is only around 20-25% efficient.
Solar and wind energy are the two largest sources of renewable energy currently in use in the UK.
Wind energy is typically functioning at 45-50% efficiency.
Source – www.viaspace.com
Their primary advantages are that the source of energy (the sun and the wind) are free, on the other side of course they are variable and intermittent sources of energy. Energy production from wind and solar fluctuates minute to minute and has deeper seasonal peaks and troughs.
Solar production also only works during daylight hours and is strongly affected by atmospheric factors such as clouds, storms etc.
Length of daylight hours also effects solar production and seasons also show drastic differences in energy production.
On average solar operates at an efficiency level of around 22%.
Source – John Laumer (2008) treehugger.com
Biomass however, produces consistent, steady, stable energy, unaffected by seasons, atmosphere, daytime hours or windspeed.
Energy needs to be consistent and biomass allows that, producing energy at the same effective rate year-round, 24/7. It is, in effect, the most similar in terms of stable, reliable energy output to that of fossil fuels. It can even be used in tandem with solar and wind power to provide energy when wind or solar power output is down.
Overall, biomass is more efficient and more stable than both.
Biomass For your Home or Business
Installation of biomass boilers at your location is relatively simple. They often replace an existing boiler and if required can be deployed in a prefabricated plantroom and delivered directly to site.
Solar panels almost always have to go on a roof, so are usually visible from the outside of a building and wind turbines require planning permission and generally need to be large in order to produce energy in usable quantities.
Biomass is a good long-term investment, with the savings and energy returns paying for themselves typically within 5 years. Beyond which running and fuel costs are low.
To find out more about how biomass could work for you please get in touch today or give us a call on 01621 892 613.