With fossil fuels continuing to shrink, but the need for energy growing everyday, alternative energy sources have continued to be sought. One form has been used for the past 180 years and is now making a resurgence due to its availability. Biomass Fuel is used in special generators called gasifiers and are now finding new uses especially on farms.
The process of running a farm requires high levels of energy. Not only is running large pieces of equipment costly, but so is keeping outbuildings lit, water troughs filled, running irrigation systems, and all the other many demands placed on farms who raise livestock as well as various forms of vegetation.
The fuel used in biomass gasifiers come from organic materials which are easier to secure than fossil fuels. They come from things which were recently living such as plant matter including trees, crops remnants, and grasses. Although many things can be considered potential biomass products, there are certain qualifiers for materials that will actually work in gasifiers.
In order for efficiency to be achieved, fuel sources must meet basic criteria. They must have a high moisture content, fibrous structure, sugars, and ash. As a result, their heat value is lower than coal or other products currently used to generate power. One of the most commonly used sources is wood which is often found in the residue from manufacturing as well as scraps that are discarded in landfills and construction sites.
Today there are many fast-growing crops which have been planted just for this purpose. These are called short-rotation hardwoods and have been genetically altered to not only grow fast, but to also resist drought allowing for a faster, more consistent harvest. Of course, even with this seemingly easy source of fuel, certain preparation must be made before it can be used in energy production.
There are basically several steps which must be completed in order to use this fuel for the purpose of generating power. Feed size must first be selected based on the predetermined criteria and condensed. It must then be dried. This is often a process which can be somewhat costly in the short-run, but will save much once it has been gasified.
Although there are many methods for providing a continuous supply of fuel for these new systems, they are not without their problems. One of the major concerns is in the handling, storage, and supply to the system regardless of the type of gasifier used. This primarily is the result of the varying characteristics of sources. For example, straw has a low-mass density and is, therefore, very difficult to handle. Whether baled, chopped, or generated into pellet-size products, it must be handled carefully around equipment which can be extremely sensitive to cast-off.
The majority of people in the world are aware that fossil fuels are becoming scarce and that new methods of creating energy are needed. One of the most promising is the use of Biomass Fuel which is often abundant as a by-product of manufacturing and construction. However, much still needs to be learned and training of workers must be inclusive in order to ensure that the potential for this alternative fuel source is maximized.