With more and more people becoming interested in preserving the environment and ending our dependence on oil and gas buzzwords like biomass begin cropping up in more conversations. If you want to keep up on the latest ideas so you can impress your friends when you get together to talk about your new Allis Chalmers pump parts and the state of the world, this article should give you an introduction to the topic of biomass.
Biomass is a renewable energy source that comes from things that either are or were alive. It if grows, it can eventually be dried, compressed and used to fuel a generator by being burned inside of it. Because biomass comes from things that grow, whatever biomass is harvested can be regrown and used again, meaning your steel coil strapping systems can go on being powered by it indefinitely without it running out like oil and gas reserves eventually will. That is what is meant by renewable.
Your first reaction to the idea of burning biomass may be: but that won't help the environment - we'll be cutting down more trees and burning them, which continues releasing carbon dioxide. And while it's true that biomass causes more pollution than solar or wind, it is more environmentally friendly than coal and oil. The reason for this is that while the biomass is growing outside your Mimico real estate, it absorbs the carbon dioxide it will later release when burned, which makes it carbon neutral. The biomass also does not run out because more is planted at a replacement rate (or higher).
Biomass fuel is a popular choice for big generators and consumers who already have setups for burning oil because it takes a lot less retrofitting to change an oil or coal burner to a biomass burner that it does to transition a system over to solar or wind power. Biomass is also not limited to areas in which there is a lot of sun or wind, because biomass can be grown almost anywhere, from a field to the yard of a psychologist in Guelph.
So what kinds of things can become biomass? Almost anything. The cotton canvas of your bedroom art could qualify. However the most popular sources of biomass include dead trees, grass clippings, wood chips, hemp, corn, bamboo, sugarcane, rice husks, garbage, and compressed pulp paper waste products from the paper industry. Biomass can also be turned into biofuel for gasoline and ethanol engines.