Renewable energy is becoming increasingly popular in recent years. As people realize the looming scarcity of fossil fuels and other carbon-based energy sources and with oil prices soaring higher than ever, cheap alternative energy sources like solar, biomass, wind, geothermal, and hydro energy sources have been explored for their potential in replacing the traditional sources we currently have.
Bioenergy is energy derived from biomass, which could be any organic material which has stored energy from sunlight.
Biomass may be derived from wood, straw, sugar cane, plant parts, garden waste, animal waste, and other materials from different agricultural processes. It may be abundant in certain locations, particularly in areas with much agricultural activity like farms, as well as forests, swamps, and marshes.
Nevertheless, even residential and commercial areas may have significant sources of biomass, which could come from the wastes of the biodegradable materials consumed in these locations.
This is a viable option in providing energy for many applications. Biomass provides energy mainly for heating and basic electricity production. It is said to be more reliable than solar and wind energy, which are intermittent energy sources. As long as there is a constant supply of organic waste materials, power generation from biomass can be done continuously. Because of this, biomass is also considered a renewable energy resource.
Since biomass can be locally sourced, it lessens the need for countries to import fossil fuel. Its availability is one of the considerations why it can also potentially provide base load electricity to small communities. Studies in Europe have shown that bioenergy can supply up to 20% of electricity needs in the European Union nations, given proper policies. Aside from being sustainable, it is also scalable, and can be transported and stored, making it a highly reliable energy source.
Bioenergy is considered clean energy, which means it does not give off much air pollution when it is used for energy production. There is significantly less amount of greenhouse gas emissions from bioenergy. Apart from reducing air pollution, it also helps reduce solid waste as bioenergy is retrieved from these materials, which can lessen the amount of garbage that goes to our landfills.
Despite all these advantages, bioenergy is not without controversy. Biofuels, or fuel production from agricultural products, has been the subject of much debate in recent years. The argument of food vs. fuel has sparked from the call of energy engineers and scientists to shift to renewables like bioenergy. This is because biofuels are sourced from agricultural food products, such as corn, wheat, sugar cane, palm oil, cassava, and jatropha. Apart from using the food materials as source, there is also debate on the use of agricultural land for planting sources of biofuels like jatropha.
But experts say there is no imminent danger in producing biofuel, as long as there is proper regulation to ensure both food security and sustainability of fuel. To upgrade biogas the Sabatier process can produce biogas which is used by a power plant for power production. A good way to regulate food security and sustainability of fuel is to have a good balance in the energy mix, making sure that there are other renewable energy sources aside from bioenergy. Bioenergy is an excellent renewable energy source if regulated and used properly.