Biomass Energy - For Kids

Biomass energy is the energy from plant matter, such as wood. This energy can be obtained from burning plant matter directly, but can also be obtained from burning biofuel (such as ethanol and biodiesel) produced from fermented plant matter. The heat energy obtained from burning biomass can be used to heat water and produce high-pressure steam for running steam turbines which generate electricity. And the biofuel produced from fermented biomass can be used directly for powering engines similar to gasoline and diesel engines.

The figure below explains how energy from biomass works using a tree as an example.

biomass energy figure 1

biomass energy figure 2

Biomass energy has the attractive feature that it contributes no extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As is well-known, carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, as a result of burning fossil fuels (such as in cars and trucks), is the main cause of global warming. Fossil fuels are fuels that are extracted from the earth, such as oil and natural gas. These were produced millions of years ago through natural organic processes on earth. You can think of fossil fuels as ancient biomass, which comes from plants that have died and decayed millions of years ago. The carbon contained inside their structure has been removed from earth's carbon cycle for millions of years.

But now, this ancient stored carbon (contained inside fossil fuels) is once more being released into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. Now this might seem like it should not be a problem since this is carbon dioxide that was in the atmosphere before. However, the earth has now reached a new ecological balance, and re-releasing all this carbon dioxide into the air upsets the delicate balance on earth. Global warming is the main upset in this balance. But biomass energy, based on plant matter currently growing on earth, will not interfere with this delicate balance.

However, it is best to use only waste biomass (such as wood waste) for energy and not devote large amounts of land for specifically growing biomass for energy use. Doing so would be far too inefficient in terms of energy production since far too much land would be required to meet our energy needs. It is far better to use other forms of renewable energy, such as solar and wind, for our energy needs.

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