Biomass Electricity


Photo: Warren Gretz, NREL 00294

Biomass consists of organic residues from plants and animals that are obtained primarily from harvesting and processing of agricultural and forestry crops. These are used as fuels in direct combustion power plants. The biomass is burned, producing heat that is used to create steam to turn turbines to produce electricity. The steam can often be used for another process -- such as drying vegetables or using in a factory. This is called cogeneration.

Examples of some of the biomass residues that are utilized in direct combustion power plants are: forest slash, urban wood waste, lumber waste, agricultural wastes, etc. The components of biomass include cellulose, hemicelluloses, lignin, lipids, proteins, simple sugars, starches, water, hydrocarbons, ash and other compounds. The total estimated biomass resource potential of California is approximately 47 million tons.

Biomass energy is also the term used for the use of wood products to heat homes and businesses. More in-depth information can be found on these pages.