Biomass for Electricity Generation

Nov 05, 2014

This Resource Page from the Whole Buildings Design Guide explains biomass as it is used for facility heating, electric power generation, and combined heat and power. The term "biomass" encompasses a large variety of materials, including wood from various sources, agricultural residues, and animal and human waste, which can be converted into electric power through several methods. The most common is direct combustion of biomass material, such as agricultural waste or woody materials. Other options include gasification, pyrolysis, and anaerobic digestion. Gasification produces a synthesis gas with usable energy content by heating the biomass with less oxygen than needed for complete combustion. Pyrolysis yields bio-oil by rapidly heating the biomass in the absence of oxygen. Anaerobic digestion produces a renewable natural gas when organic matter is decomposed by bacteria in the absence of oxygen.

The Resource Page also details the different methods for using biomass for fuel, and explains the type of biomass that works best with each. It focuses on woody biomass used for generating electricity at a commercial-scale facility rather than a utility-scale project.

U.S. Department of Energy, Federal Energy Management Program
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
Whole Buildings Design Guide Sustainable Subcommittee

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