Biomass energy is a form of energy naturally occurring in plants and animals. It can be found in plants, animals, or waste from organic sources. These forms of energy sources are referred to as biofuels and often include manure, mulch, tree components or rotted trees, and wood chips (Catchpole & Wheeler, 1992). The chlorophyll in plants naturally absorbs the carbon dioxide in the air and water thanks to photosynthesis and this energy is transferred to animals who consume plants. This is considered an energy sources that is renewable because the carbon dioxide in the plants and animals is released back into the atmosphere upon incineration, and with that more plants and crops can be grown to create more biomass energy (Bioenergy, 2009).
Biomass today functions as a new source of power. Biomass energy extends beyond electricity. Today incentives in the form of RHI have been established in order to support the deployment of renewable heat (Catchpole & Wheeler, 1992). The new financial mechanism put into place encourages the large scale installation of equipment such as biomass boilers, heat pumps, solar thermal, and wood-fueled biomass boilers. Biomass boilers, such as the 500 KW wood-fueled boiler is not electrical power. The integration of combined power generation and heat would offer more efficient usage of biomass resources and can convert excess heat into electricity at CHP plants.
While wood has often served a source of conventional heating, there are new advances today in the world of biomass energy. Today the fuel products can be harvested and produced en masse for use in power plants. There are no harmful emissions because it is a completely natural form of renewable energy (Bioenergy, 2009). Because it is clean, it brings with it additional tax incentives from many governments. There is an abundance of products for biomass, and these products are renewable. The products are all derived from living sources, and those sources survive cyclically which means that so long as plants and animals survive on Earth, there is no end to the living components and waste products that can be converted into energy. In fact, biomass plants generate enough electricity to power 1.3 million homes (Biomass Energy, 2015).
Today, in the United Kingdom, recycled chicken droppings are used as one of the primary products for the creation of biomass fuels (Bioenergy, 2009). The implementation of biomass reduces the dependency upon fossil fuels. It is also a versatile form of renewable energy, one which can expound upon various types or organic matter (Bioenergy, 2009). Bioenergy offers a sustainable process of renewable energy too. Bioenergy can contribute 8-11% of the total energy demand by 2020 for the whole of the United Kingdom and up to 12% of the total energy demand for the whole of the United Kingdom by 2050. . Bioenergy brings with it wide opportunities for sustainability. There are some disadvantages associated with the large scale implementation of biomass energy.
The potential disadvantages associated with bioenergy relate most strongly to environmental and developmental concerns. Many groups have expressed concerns about the issue of sustainability, the emissions that would reduce from the land use change, pressures on deforestation, as well as the link between food price and bioenergy (Perlack, et. al., 2005). The cultivation of waste products is not physically harmful, but it can encourage the growth of harmful bacteria too. The use of tree and tree products in order to power large scale grids takes more fuel to do the same amount of work as a conventional fuel source would. This results in the need to deforest mass amounts of forest area in order to gather enough power, something which alters the topology of the world and destroys ecosystems and with it, animals and plants.
Solar power is free given that it comes from the sun, but the equipment necessary to harness it is now. Solar energy causes no pollution and can be used in otherwise remote areas where extending electricity power can be difficult. The biggest disadvantage is that it can only be harnessed during the day, when the sun it out. The panels and cells, again, required to harness it is quite expensive in and a large area of land is necessary to capture the energy. In countries such as the UK the climate is unreliable in terms of sun exposure which makes solar energy unreliable too (Bube, 2012).
Much like solar, wind is free and can be efficiently captured using modern technology. After it is capture it does not produce pollution when it is converted to energy. Wind turbines are tall and as such take up only a small area of land and can be integrated easily into larger areas where connectivity to electricity grids may be difficult. There are a range of shapes and sizes which means that wind energy can be applied appropriately to villages and towns of varying sizes. The main disadvantages are that the strength of wind is very inconsistent and the same amount o electricity would not be produced at the same time. Wind turbines also create a great deal of noise and are considered by many to be a physical eyesore (Anaya-Lara, et. al. 2001).
Hydroelectricity returns all of the water to its main source which means that it can be created indefinitely so long as the body of water never dries up. It is also a clean source of energy, something which does not create waste byproducts. The main disadvantage is the cost of the plants and the fact that in places where dams are set up, the water supply down river is altered permanently affecting villages or towns located in that area. (Yang & Jackson, 2011).