Biomass is the oldest and the most commonly used source of renewable energy. It involves the entire organic matter on Earth, with all its solid and liquid constituents being of plant or animal origin, making biomass easy to biodegrade. The utilization of biomass makes it possible to take advantage of waste and manage excessive resources.
Biomass is calculated in mass units (gram, kilogram), energy units (calorie, joule), and in organic carbon content. Thanks to that, it is possible to specify the biological production of a given entity, ecosystem, biome, population, biocenosis, or the entire biosphere. It may have the form of fresh or dry mass of living organisms (after water evaporation or drying).
It is possible to distinguish microorganism biomass, zoo-mass (biomass of animals), and photo-mass (biomass of plants). In the case of ecosystems, one may also identify the biomass of producers (generated in the process of photosynthesis) and consumer biomass (produced by means of producer’s biomass). Said two masses constitute to the creation of the entire biomass of biocenosis.
Thanks to photosynthesis, solar energy is cumulated in biomass and may be than used by humans for their specific purposes. It can be processed into other energy forms by burning biomass or the products of its decomposition. As a result, heat is generated that may be transferred into other types of energy. Biomass is the third natural source of energy in terms of its utilization in the world.
Products that are most typically used for energy generation-related purposes are mainly:
Low quality wood and wood remains,
Hay and other agricultural production-related remains,
Plant oils and animal fats,
Seaweed cultivated especially for heat generation,
Organic waste (corn stalks, alfalfa stalks, grass straws, and beetroot pulp).
In Poland, fast growing plants are used to produce biomass, especially: multiflora rose, giant knotweed, basket willow, Virginia mallow, sun root, and perennial plants (such as switchgrass, giant miscanthus, and lemongrass).
Biomass burning is more beneficial for the environment, for it produces less harmful elements than burning fossil fuels. Said process also generates less carbon dioxide, in turn lowering the risk of global warming. Biomass-based heating is very cost-effective, for the price of the said fuel on the market is very competitive. The only drawback of biomass burning is the production of dangerous fats and proteins.
Biomass-specific energy is generated not only by direct burning, but also by gassing, esterification, and fermentation.