Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Are biomass power plants environmentally friendly?

The topic of whether biomass power plants are environmentally friendly or not is still connected with many controversies and a variety of different opinions. The proponents of biomass power plants claim that they help environment by reducing wood waste and also help in preventing wildifire. They also claim that biomass power plants reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in comparison to fossil fuel fired power plants.

The opponents of biomass power plants say that these plants are anything but environmentally friendly. They claim that biomass power plants contribute to growth in greenhouse gas emissions and are anything but carbon neutral like biomass industry claim they are. They even claim that generating electricity by burning different wood materials and agricultural waste is dirtier than generating power with natural gas.

According to California Air Resources Board biomass power plants are not considered greenhouse gas emitters because the officials took the stand that if forest materials weren’t burned at biomass power plants they would rot or burn in the woods anyway, which would result in the creation of the same amount of greenhouse gases. What this basically means is that The Air Resources Board has accepted the opinion that biomass power plant is a carbon neutral technology.

This opinion could be of course heavily debated, especially when taking into account the decades it takes for materials to naturally break down versus the hours or minutes it takes to burn a tree in a biomass plant boiler.

Some recent studies have also claimed that biomass power plants are among the largest carbon monoxide emitters and that they can thus seriously deteriorate the air quality in the area.

In any case, what this topic really needs is one large, comprehensive study that would take into account all these factors objectively and reach scientifically acclaimed conclusion. Biomass has tremendous future potential but only as an environmentally friendly energy option. Anything else, would in reality result in replacing fossil fuels with another equally dirty option.