Biomass energy comes from landfill – or rubbish dumps. It includes energy from both animal and plant matter. The food you eat, plants that die, woodchips and seaweed are all sources of biomass energy.
Most of the garbage we use ends up at the rubbish dump. The average person is said to throw away almost 2 kg of rubbish every day, or 728 kg per year. That's a lot!
Most rubbish we throw out is buried in the ground (also known as landfill). The gas generated by landfill as it rots (biomass) is another form of renewable or "green" energy.
Landfill gas is created when the waste you throw away starts rotting (or decomposing) in the ground.
This gas would normally just seep through the ground and into the atmosphere, contributing to environmental problems, like the greenhouse effect. However, it can be captured and processed to create electricity. It is collected, dried (to get rid of any water), and then filtered (to get rid of any waste particles). It is then fed through pipes to a gas generator that burns the gas to create electricity.
Then it makes its way to your home and school – via the electricity network.
It is certainly not as popular as other renewable methods, but the interest in biomass as an alternate energy source is growing – in Australia and around the world.
Advantages of using energy from biomass
- It is renewable – people and animals will always produce waste
- It is environmentally friendly and efficient
- It is more reliable generator of electricity than energy from the wind or the sun.
- It reduces the level of greenhouse gases which landfill produces
- When landfill gases are collected the rubbish dump smells better. Plants near the dump also grow better.
Disadvantages of using energy from biomass
- As the community becomes more environmentally aware (reducing the amount of waste they create through recycling), the amount of available landfill will be reduced.
- Much greater quantities of landfill gases are required to create electricity (compared to fossil fuels)
- Biomass energy is more expensive to produce because it is still being fully developed.