Energy from biomass is a renewable source of energy that depends on the cycle of living plant and animal matter…
Biomass energy is the oldest form of energy used by man since the discovery of fire in prehistory. This energy makes it possible to manufacture electricity thanks to the heat released by the combustion of these materials (wood, plants, agricultural waste, organic household refuse) or the biogas resulting from the fermentation of these materials, in biomass plants.
Biomass by combustion
The waste is directly burned producing heat, electricity or both (cogeneration). This concerns wood, waste wood processing industries and agricultural plant waste (straw, sugar cane, peanut, coconut …).
The urban waste incineration plant TIRU (a subsidiary of EDF) in Ivry-sur-Seine (Val-de-Marne) treats household waste of more than 5 million inhabitants (more than 690 000 t per year) ).
In France, 10% of biomass electricity production comes from the combustion of biogas.
Biomass by anaerobic digestion
The waste is first transformed into a biogas, by fermentation through micro-organisms (bacteria). The biogas is then burned. This biogas is close to natural gas and mainly composed of methane. This concerns household waste, animal manure and slurry, sewage sludge, paper and cardboard …
In France, several plants produce electricity thanks to biomass, mainly wood. They are most often installed close to the very places where the waste is stored. The wood is also used for collective and industrial heating.
Biomass energy emits almost no pollutants and has no impact on the greenhouse effect. The amount of CO2, a greenhouse gas that it releases, is the amount that plants absorb during their growth.
In addition, upgrading biogas to electricity avoids the emission of methane, another greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. It represents a very important energy potential, mainly from landfills, but also from sewage sludge and urban and agricultural waste.
Today only 1/4 of this potential is actually used for the production of electricity and / or heat.