Biomass Advantages and Disadvantages

Biomass is a renewable source of energy, derived from burning animal and plant waste. Almost all industries (see extensive list), including agriculture, forestry, colleges/universities, municipalities, hotels, resorts, sports venues, hospitals and correctional facilities, produce waste that can be converted to heat and electricity. 

A September 2017 report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that the capacity to create bioenergy will increase in 2018.

Some of the advantages of biomass energy are:

1.    Biomass is always and widely available as a renewable source of energy.
The organic materials used to produce biomass are infinite, since our society consistently produces waste such as garbage, wood and manure.

2.    It is carbon neutral.
As a natural part of photosynthesis, biomass fuels only release the same amount of carbon into the atmosphere as was absorbed by plants in the course of their life cycle.

3.    It reduces the overreliance of fossil fuels.

Not only is there is a limited supply of fossil fuels, but fossil fuels come with environmental baggage, including the release of large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and the pollutants that result from removal, transportation and production.

4.    Is less expensive than fossil fuels.

While fossil fuel production requires a heavy outlay of capital, such as oil drills, gas pipelines and fuel collection, biomass technology is much cheaper. Manufacturers and producers are able to generate higher profits from a lower output.

5.    Biomass production adds a revenue source for manufacturers.
Producers of waste can add value by channeling their garbage to create a more profitable use in the form biomass energy.

6.    Less garbage in landfills.
By burning solid waste, the amount of garbage dumped in landfills is reduced by 60 to 90 percent, and reduces the cost of landfill disposal and amount of land required for landfill.


While the advantages of biomass energy are plenty, there are also some shortcomings, including:

1.    Biomass energy is not as efficient as fossil fuels

Some biofuels, like Ethanol, is relatively inefficient as compared to gasoline. In fact, it has to be fortified with fossil fuels to increase its efficiency.

2.    It is not entirely clean
While biomass is carbon neutral, the use of animal and human waste escalates the amount of methane gases, which are also damaging to the environment. Additionally, the pollution created from burning wood and other natural materials can be considered just as bad as that resulting from burning coal and other types of energy resources.

3.    Can lead to deforestation.

Since wood is one of the most used source of biomass energy, vast amounts of wood and other waste products have to be burned to produce the desired amount of power. While currently there is enough wood waste already, there is a risk of deforestation in the future.

4.    Biomass plants require a lot of space.
While it’s difficult to find a plant that is in a convenient place in an urban area, utilizing onsite hardware like the BioMax® technology, companies can create biomass energy at a fraction of the space of a large facility.

While there are some downsides to biomass energy, more research and innovation is continuing to be devoted to the field as a more widely available, cheaper alternate and valuable substitute for traditional electricity and other energy sources.

Courtney Miller