Biomass energy generation integrated with biochar production is a key piece of the renewable energy solution. Â
At peak production California biomass facilities generated 800 MW from 66 power plants across the state. Currently, there are 30 operational biomass plants generating 640 MW of electricity. With a gross biomass resource base of ~50 million bone dry tons of biomass available in the state each year, biomass energy is an underutilized opportunity to generate renewable energy from woody biomass resources generally considered as waste and produce a valuable soil building material 1.
Plants capture energy from the sun, drawing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into their bodies to build more complex forms of carbon. Carbohydrate fibers like cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin store carbon in plant biomass. When that plant matter is exposed to high temperatures, the energy that was used to create their bodies is rapidly released.
Biochar production involves the partial burning of plant material. The process releases energy that can be captured and used. The purest and simplest form of energy to capture and use is heat. It is also possible to create electricity. Most difficult of all, yet still possible, is to create transportable liquid fuels comparable to petroleum.
There is still energy in biochar, it is akin to charcoal. In the vast majority of existing biomass-to-energy facilities the biomass used is burned all the way to ash leaving little if any carbon in the form of char.
Thankfully to all the engineers who have been hard at work, there are a few technologies that exist today which yield energy and simultaneously produce high quality biochar. While still in it’s infancy in scale and recognition, some technology options are now becoming available by producers and adopted by users.
If you are interested in how you might be able to utilize biochar production technologies in your energy production projects, contact our team, we can help make it happen right.
1 California Energy Commission. â€œBiomass Energy in California.â€Â California Energy Commission, State of California, www.energy.ca.gov/biomass/biomass.html.
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