Biomass power (electricity generation) has compelling advantages over other renewable technologies.
Continuous and controllable operation 24/7 make biomass power despachable and predictable (wind and solar are subject to weather and day/night availability issues).
When reliable and sustainable biomass fuel supplies can be sourced for displacing coal use in existing coal fired power stations [co-firing], with the biomass produced close to the generation plant or imported as wood pellets from overseas sustainable suppliers, it is the lowest cost carbon mitigation option available, as no new generation plant has to be constructed.
This has led to major recent and predicted growth in large scale biomass imports into developing countries for electricity generation.
LCA (life cycle analysis) of biomass power generation from woody energy crops shows significantly higher environmental benefits in the use of biomass electricity to power electric cars, compared to the inefficient use of biomass to produce liquid fuels for motor vehicles (Stanford University)
Small scale biomass gasification technology has been used for most of the 20th century. The technology consists of combining the biomass with limited amounts of air and water/steam at high temperatures to produce syngas (CO and H2) which can then be used to drive a standard internal combustion engine to generate electricity.
This type of renewable energy can be particularly suitable for developing countries and developed countries with low population density and high costs for electricity grid infrastructure. In rural and remote areas and countries, transmission and distribution of energy generated from diesel and other fossil fuels can be difficult and expensive. Producing renewable energy locally using biomass can offer a viable power alternative.
Significant advances in small unit construction and deployment have occurred over the last 10+ years. Many thousands of small scale power generation units have been installed (in India there is 160 MW of off-grid small scale biomass power generation (REN21 “2009 Status Report”) and Aligned Energy is assessing the existing technology platforms and suitability of a number of recognised manufacturers and suppliers for small and mid scale (12 kW to 5 MW) power generation facilities in the Asia-Pacific region.