9 Unusual Alternative Energy Options – the Potential of Biomass

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Biomass Can Come from a Great Variety of Interesting Sources
Biomass Can Come from a Great Variety of Interesting Sources

Biomass energy and biomass fuel are becoming more and more viable options for a sustainable future. But Biomass is a lot more fascinating than most people realize, with fuel sources ranging from chicken excrement to human fat and even stranger substances you might never have guessed. The many, many different possibilities for biomass materials makes it one of the most fascinating forms of alternative energy – especially when you consider these unusual methods of biomass production:

Chicken Poop

Over 800 thousand tons of chicken poop is available for biomass energy production in the Netherlands each year.  Photo by mauledbyjesus via Flickr
Over 800 thousand tons of chicken poop is available for biomass energy production in the Netherlands each year. Photo by mauledbyjesus via Flickr

Chicken manure, like cow byproducts, emits methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and is a growing environmental concern in the Netherlands. Instead of exporting the problem as they’ve done in the past, at least 440,000 tons of chicken poop will produce biomass energy in a new production plant.

Garbage

In 2003 Americans dumped about 130 million tons of garbage into local landfills.  This waste contaminates the air, the soil, and the water supply.  Photo by Andarilho Belem via Flickr
More than 130 million tons of garbage enter landfills each year, contaminating the air, the soil, and the water supply. Photo by Andarilho Belem via Flickr

Scheduled to be in operation by the end of 2009, America’s first garbage to ethanol plant will be located in Los Angeles County, California. These plants could offer a more sustainable option for alternative fuel while eliminating several tons of waste from landfills.

Human Fat

This futuristic speed boat is powered completely by biomass fuels, including fuel produced by the owners body fat.
This futuristic speed boat is powered completely by biomass fuels, including fuel produced by the owners body fat.

Earthrace is an eco-friendly boat operated on 100% biomass fuel and proves that it is possible to produce biofuel from human fat, obtained by liposuction. Read more on human fat and biomass energy.

Farm Waste

Many farmers PAY to have farm waste, wood chips, and other potential biomass materials removed from their land. Photo by pdam2
Many farmers PAY to have farm waste, wood chips, and other potential biomass materials removed from their land. Photo by pdam2

While wood and farm waste are not unusual materials for biomass fuel, Show Me Energy’s biomass wood pellets and cooperative community energy projects are intriguing. Local farmers provide (and profit from) the biomass plant’s materials and then use the pellets to heat their homes and barns. These locally produced biomass pellets are also being tested as a viable solution for generating clean energy.

Hazardous Materials

Could toxic waste power the world? Photo by greefus groink
Could toxic waste power the world? Photo by greefus groink

Otherwise difficult to dispose of hazardous waste, including medical, industrial, and chemical garbage, will become materials for a new energy plant planned in Indiana. A combination of gasification and waste-heat-to-energy processes is proposed to convert the hazardous materials into energy.

Algae

More than 65,000 species and unbelievable reproduction rates make algae an ideal candidate for sustainable fuel.  Photo by Grendelkhan
More than 65,000 species and unbelievable reproduction rates make algae an ideal candidate for sustainable fuel. Photo by Grendelkhan

The potential of algae as an alternative fuel option has been experimented with throughout history but is now receiving more attention as oil prices continue to soar. Nearly half of an algae plant’s total weight is oil, meaning an acre of this abundant pond scum could produce about 20,000 times the amount of oil for biofuel than a soybean crop produces!

Wheat Stubble

Leftover stubble from wheat and grain crops could replace at least 20% of fossil-fuel based energy without interfering with the land or food supply.  Photo by Andrew Stawarz
Leftover stubble from wheat and grain crops could replace at least 20% of fossil-fuel based energy without interfering with the land or food supply. Photo by Andrew Stawarz

While some of the waste left behind after harvesting is important to maintain the soil, a large portion of it is simply wasted. This stubble has the potential to be a truly sustainable biomass option – it doesn’t require the introduction of a new species, will not detract from the food supply, and doesn’t create any disruptions in the current environment like most biomass crops.

Slaughterhouse Waste

Without proper treatment, slaughterhouse waste can contaminate the water supply.  Traditional treatment methods are just as harmful to the air, emitting both methane and carbon dioxide.  What if those leftover animal parts could generate our energy? Photo by szaqii
Could leftover animal parts generate our energy? Photo by szaqii

While many people are reducing or eliminating their meat consumption, the human race still consumes a lot of meat.  Slaughterhouses and farms that prepare these foods have quite an impact on the environment.  The Cows to Kilowatts initiative in Nigeria plans to eliminate the pollution slaughterhouses create while producing a clean and affordable fuel option.

Human Waste

Human waste is something we can't control - so why not make it useful?  Photo by Mark Sebastian
Human waste is something we cant control - why not turn it into something useful? Photo by Mark Sebastian

The methane gases emited by human waste will soon turn on the lights in San Antonio, TX.  Plans for the first commercial US processing plant of this type are already underway and should harvest methane from about 90% of the city’s sewage.

14 thoughts on “9 Unusual Alternative Energy Options – the Potential of Biomass”

  1. This is the fun part about going green!

    We have so many alternatives already available – stuff we’re currently just throwing away!

    This makes so much more sense than mouthing “Drill, baby, drill!” (Especially since any new drilling this year won’t bring gas to the pumps for a minimum of ten years)

  2. Like seriously, who in their right mind and older than 12 is going to believe these are viable energy sources. Wake up eco-retards, the future is either solar, hydrogen or nuclear.
    In the meantime why don't you burn the shit that comes out of your mouth to get warm

  3. Great information! Biomass is definitely a frontrunner for alternative energy production. Its availability around the world makes it a great candidate for further development and research.

    Great posting.
    Thanks for sharing.

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