Biomass is a clean, renewable energy source that can help to significantly diversify transportation fuels in the United States.
Biomass is transforming the nation's fuel resources into renewable, abundant, cost-competitive, and high-performance bio-fuels. Bio-energy is renewable energy made from any organic material that is derived from plants or animals. Sources of bioenergy are called "biomass," and include agricultural and forestry residues, municipal solid wastes, industrial wastes, and terrestrial and aquatic crops grown solely for energy purposes. Types of biomass can now be used to produce electrical power. This flexibility has resulted in increased use of biomass technologies.
Biomass is an attractive petroleum alternative because it is a renewable resource that is more evenly distributed over the Earth's surface than finite energy sources, and may be exploited using more environmentally friendly technologies. Today, biomass resources are used to generate electricity and to produce liquid transportation fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. Ethanol is the most widely used liquid transportation fuel or biofuel. A majority of ethanol is made from corn, but new technologies are being developed to make ethanol from a wider range of agricultural and forestry resources. Ethanol may be used as an alternative fuel in E-85 or flex fuel vehicles and may also be used as an octane-boosting, pollution-reducing additive, such as E-10, to gasoline. E-10 is widely available at gas stations in most parts of the U.S. Although availability of E-85 is more limited, the use of E-85 is growing and there are currently more than 7 million vehicles on the road today that can use the alternative fuel.
Many biomass power plants use solid biomass to produce electricity instead of land filling much of our green waste. For example, a power plant in Michigan uses 300,000 tons per year of wood waste from local timber industries.
Biomass technologies break down organic matter to release stored energy from the sun. The process used depends on the type of biomass and its intended end-use.