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Biopower Basics

August 14, 2013 - 12:35pm


Biopower is the production of electricity or heat from biomass resources. With 10 gigawatts of installed capacity, biopower technologies are proven options in the United States today.

Biopower technologies include direct combustion, co-firing, gasification, and anaerobic digestion.

Direct Combustion

Most electricity generated from biomass is produced by direct combustion using conventional boilers. These boilers primarily burn waste wood products from the agriculture and wood-processing industries. When burned, heat from the wood produces steam, which spins a turbine. The spinning turbine then activates a generator that produces electricity.


Co-firing involves replacing a portion of the fossil-based fuel in high-efficiency coal-fired boilers with renewable biomass. Co-firing has been successfully demonstrated in most standard boiler technologies, including pulverized coal, cyclone, fluidized bed, and spreader stoker units. Co-firing biomass can significantly reduce the sulfur dioxide emissions of coal-fired power plants and is a least-cost renewable energy option for many power producers.


Through gasification, biomass is heated in an environment that enables the solids to be converted into a synthesis gas, which can then be burned in conventional boilers or used in turbines to produce electricity.

Anaerobic Digestion

In anaerobic digestion, organic matter is decomposed by bacteria in the absence of oxygen to produce methane and other byproducts that form a renewable natural gas.

Learn more about anaerobic digestion.