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Biomass Energy Resources and Technologies

Photo of two hands cupping wood chips pouring from a green dispenser.

Biomass uses agriculture
and forest residues to
create energy.

This page provides a brief overview of biomass energy resources and technologies supplemented by specific information to apply biomass within the Federal sector.

Overview

Biomass energy is fuel, heat, or electricity produced from organic materials such as plants, residues, and waste. These organic materials span several sources, including agriculture, forestry, primary and secondary mill residues, urban waste, landfill gases, wastewater treatment plants, and dedicated energy crops.

Biomass energy takes many forms and can have a wide variety of applications ranging from:

  • Direct firing to produce electricity
  • Co-firing with fossil fuels for electricity
  • Direct firing of boiler for heating
  • Direct firing for combined heat and power (CHP)
  • Gasification for CHP
  • Converted into liquid fuels

Visit the Department of Energy's (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office to learn more on biomass energy basics and technologies.

Federal Application

Photo of two men standing in front of large sugar cane plants.

Sugar cane is used in
Hawaii and other
locations to produce
energy and ethanol for
alternative fuels.

Before conducting an assessment or deploying biomass energy technologies, Federal agencies must evaluate a series of questions.

What are my energy goals?

Energy goals range from meeting regulatory requirements to powering remote applications to increasing energy security. Biomass resources, if applied properly, are suitable for each.

  • Regulatory Requirements: Electricity produced by biomass resources fall under the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 2005 definition of renewable energy and can be used to meet EPAct 2005 renewable energy requirements. However, biomass resources for thermal energy do not meet the EPAct 2005 renewable energy definition or requirements. This thermal power, however, can reduce energy consumption intensity, which does play a role in other Federal laws and requirements.

  • Vehicle Fleets: Biomass resources for alternative fuel production are an important part of managing Federal vehicle fleets. For more information, visit the FEMP Fleet Management section.

  • Remote Power: Biomass resources for thermal applications can be cost-effective for some remote applications, but electricity production is typically not cost-effective for remote power. It is important to consult an expert before implementing remote energy technologies.

  • Energy Security: Biomass resources are viable renewable energy resources found in almost every location across the U.S. It is a predictable energy resource that can be easily stored, transported, and used to reduce utility peak demand for increased energy security.

What kind of energy do I use?

Federal agencies must understand what type of energy is used before determining if biomass resources are applicable. Biomass resources can be used for electricity or thermal energy.

When do I need the energy?
Photo of an industrial complex with large piping running in and out of facilities.

This facility gasifies sugar
cane from a nearby mill in
Hawaii.

Biomass energy is capable of producing electricity and thermal energy around the clock. It is a viable resource for most applications if deemed cost-effective based on energy load needs.

How much power do I use/need to produce?

Biomass technologies generate varying amounts of electricity and thermal energy depending on the size of the technology deployment and biomass resource itself. It is important to consult an expert for a professional evaluation to plan accordingly.

Where am I located and what resources are available in my area?

Local competition for resources plays a large part in biomass resource availability and cost-effectiveness. Significant portions of the resources may already be in use or reserved by other organizations. If so, a premium price may be attached. Before initiating a project, resources in your area must be measured and verified. It is important to consult an expert for a professional evaluation before implementing biomass energy projects.

Is this a building- or campus-scale project?

Biomass technologies for thermal and electricity production applications are ideally suited for facilities of all sizes. Be sure to consult an expert for a professional evaluation to see if biomass is applicable before implementing energy projects.

What is my budget?

It is important to consult an expert for a professional evaluation to see if biomass energy fits into your current budget and what factors play into local biomass resource costs.

What resources are available for operations and maintenance?

Biomass technologies require ongoing operations and maintenance. It is important to factor these operations and maintenance costs and staffing needs in any facility energy management plan.

Next steps

Visit the project planning section for detailed information on planning and deploying renewable energy projects. Federal case studies are available to provide specific examples of viable biomass energy projects.

Resources

Detailed information on biomass energy resources and technologies is available through: