Power Generation

The use of biofuels in the generation of electricity is not a new concept. In fact, electric-generation plants often use left-over biomass as fuel for their furnaces. The major difference between biofuel for electricity production and biofuel for other needs is that solid is preferred to liquid.

Solid Preference

The preference for solid biofuel in power generation derives mainly from the fact that it is easier to store than liquid fuel, which needs specialized tanks. Because the fuel need only be transported to the site where it is burned, mobility is not a major consideration. If it can be loaded onto a truck or train, the fuel is portable enough.

Lower Standards

Power generation facilities are more tolerant of contaminants, debris, and other imperfections that would render a biofuel useless for transportation applications. Thus, biomass need not be particularly pure or of a consistent quality to be used in power generation. This means that biomass for this setting can be less expensive and this also helps keep costs down. While it may be true that purer fuels could offer benefits in power generation, those benefits are generally offset by the higher costs of processing.


Related to the fact that biomass of power generation need not be pure is the fact that waste products can be reused to make plants for efficient. For instance, factories that produce paper can user their waste products (called black and brown liquor) to produce both heat and electricity. In so doing, these plants reduce waste disposal costs, electricity costs, and heating costs, all while benefiting the environment in many ways.

Long-term Potential

In the long term, biofuel is not likely to play a major role in electrical generation for two major reasons. First, using waste biomass is a means of ridding agriculture of waste and as such is very inexpensive. This is a world of difference from growing crops specifically to burn in power plants. Such a proposition is very expensive and likely to never be economical.

Beyond the money, biomass is also a pollutant. With the need to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, the electricity generating industry is a prime focus. Because the energy source need not be mobile and storage options are more plentiful, alternatives like wind and solar offer the ability to produce greener energy than do biofuels. These same technologies are much more difficult to implement in the transportation setting. So, achieving massive GHG emission reductions with solar, wind, hydro, and others in power generation is much more feasible and thus has received more attention.