Title: ‘BIOMASS – a
renewable source of energy”
Question: What is ‘biomass’?
Answer: It is one of important sources of renewable energy, which
has a special significance in our country as to its common occurrence.
Biomass is appears in 3 forms.
- As a solid substance.
These are all plants and their parts appropriate for combustion. Mainly,
waste products in agriculture and forestry, like straw, wood chips,
sawdust, leaves, which is all solid biological products that can be
burnt to obtain heat or electric energy.
- The second form of biomass is the
All types of biofuels belong to it, like vegetable oils and alcohols.
They can as well be admixtures to conventional fuels.
- The third form of biomass is the gaseous one, which
is biogas – mostly
methane obtained by means of the natural fermentation from municipal
wastes, waste-water treatment plants’ sludge, animal droppings/excrements,
so called liquid manure. Combusted biogas may be used for heating or
electric energy production.
Developing the current biomass utilization as a renewable source
of energy we are actually returning to the past.
In the year 1850, biomass constituted 85% of the global energy sources.
A hundred years later, in the year 1950, biomass constituted only a
few percent of the global balance of the utilized energy. Since the
year 2000, as a result of the organized actions aimed at the reintroduction
of biomass utilization in the energy economy, its contribution has
been rising and it is supposed to have reached 25% in the global energy
balance in the year 2050.
In Poland, the biggest importance is given to biomass coming
from agriculture and forestry. It has been estimated that
both branches of economy produce
annually the amount of biomass corresponding with (in regards to its
energetic value ) few million tons of coal.
It must be mentioned that the increase in biomass utilization in the
everyday life (e.g. domestic heating and heating of housing estates)
is much cheaper in application than other types of energy carriers
(gas, heating oil, electric current), enriches the possibility of agriculture
cultivation in products other than eatables, which may be reflected
in the activization of agricultural areas, which will result in creating
The main element of biomass in Poland is straw of all types.
Due to the widespread corn growing, straw is widely available
in every region
of our country, in almost every farmstead.
It has been estimated that, on the average, one hectare of corn gives
2,5 tons of straw annually.
Converting it into hard coal, it is as if 1,3 tons of hard coal was
growing in each hectare.
Part of the harvested straw is used in farmsteads, however
many millions tons of straw, on the national scale, is
waiting to be utilized as
a heating material. Thousands of farmsteads have adopted this idea,
nevertheless, every year about 10 million tons of straw is left in
the fields or is burnt in a useless way, causing hazard to the environment.
Straw should be combusted in boilers and furnaces especially
adjusted for this purpose. They can be different sizes,
from the size of a house
oven to the size of a heating boiler for the whole housing estate.
These boilers can burn both lose and pressed straw in the form of briquettes
and pallets. Such a condensed form of the straw biomass reaches energetic
value comparable with this of hard coal silt.
Professionals claim that each farmstead growing corn on 3-4
hectares and equipped with an appropriate boiler for straw
burning may be energy
Another important type of biomass in Poland is wood waste.
There are approximately 9 million hectares of woods in Poland. Each
hectare produces annually around 1 square meter of wood waste, which
should be removed from the forests. It is the equivalent of 4 million
tons of hard coal. Next - sawdust. Sawing of every meter of
wood produces 0.4 square meters of sawdust. Altogether all wastes can
many million tons of coal. They only need to be transformed into chips,
briquettes and pallets as a way of preparation.
Many furnaces and boilers adjusted to this kind of fuel have
been working for the last couple of years. It is important
now to popularize them
Over the past few years there has been an increase in the cultivation
of plants rich in energy, mainly willow (Salix Vinimalis). Salix Vinimalis
represents many advantages as a plant. It grows very fast, has little
soil requirements and is resistant to pests and diseases. After 3 years
it is possible to obtain 30 tons of woodmass out of 1 hectare of plantation.
Their chopped stalks may be combusted separately or as chips co-combusted
with coal. Apart from boiler-houses and domestic ovens, willow chips
are more widely used in professional energy production. Powerplants
combust a mix of chips and coal. It has been estimated that plantations
of Salix Vinimalis cover few thousands of hectares.
Another form of biomass is fuels and alcohols. These are renewable
sources of energy, which have not been fully introduced in Poland on
a big scale. There have not been complete legal regulations in regards
to those yet. Only few experimental plants transforming rape oil into
fuel for diesel engines operate in the market.
Beyond all doubt this is a domain of the future, however it is necessary
to specify stable regulations for cultivators and producers.
Last but not least, biomass exists in a gaseous form. Here
a few specific achievements may be mentioned. All new and
some old municipal waste
dumps has been equipped with degassing installation. In dumping areas,
decaying biological wastes produce biogas rich in methane. Methane
gathered by a net of suction conduits, purified and compressed may
be utilized right on the spot in the energy-generating units and also
for heating purposes.
Similar actions are undertaken with final deposits in numerous
sewage-treatment plants. They are fermented in special
containers, which generates a
considerable amount of biogas. Thus it is possible to utilize inconvenient
wastes remaining after the process of municipal wastes treatment.for
the production of electric power and heat.
All forms of biomass
utilization presented above have, apart from economic effects,
two main advantages, which distinguish
them from traditional
sources of energy:
- firstly, they are naturally renewable ones,
- secondly, their utilization always results in the reduction of environmental
In the accession treaty of Poland into the European Union,
we have obliged ourselves into increasing contribution
of renewable sources
of energy in the total national energy production by 14% in the year
2025. It is a very ambitious task, as currently such a contribution
constitutes less than 4 %.
Thus, there are many tasks and efforts ahead of us, however,
bearing in mind that their realization will bring a visible
life conditions for all citizens of our country is very motivating.
It needs to be mentioned that almost all actions undertaken in this
realm are aided by the European Union funds, which currently cover
up to 80% of the total costs of such undertakings.