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Biomass

Biomass is the most-used renewable energy source in Euskadi. It is abundant and heterogenous in nature, as it is available for energy use in various forms (e.g. wood, pellets or chips) and – most importantly – is competitive on price with fossil fuels.

Throughout history its use has been widespread, e.g. wood for fires in homes or charcoal as a fuel in traditional forges. Nowadays, this energy source is used in heating, air-conditioning and industrial installations and it is a basic pillar of Basque energy policy to achieve the targets for the use of renewable energies as replacements for other, less clean, sources.

Advantages of energy from biomass

Biomass provides economic, energy and environmental advantages, among them:

  • Heat is obtained through a clean, renewable energy source.

  • Wide range of supply and high level of security.
  • Highly efficient technologies and boilers, comparable to conventional energy sources.

  • Moderate increase in the price of biomass in comparison with fossil fuels such as natural gas, diesel or propane, which means considerable savings.

Renewable organic material

Biomass is an abundant renewable energy from which energy and heat can be obtained for households in a clean, environmentally-friendly way. Like other renewable sources, its origin lies in the sun, an inexhaustible source of energy that produces heat, creates air currents, evaporates seawater and produces rain, and it is also an essential element in the photosynthesis of plant organisms. This is how the different elements that can be used for energy purposes are formed, among them the organic material that we call – generically – energy from biomass.

It is, therefore, the entire range of renewable organic material or plant or animal origin. Organic material that is produced in Nature (e.g. forestry biomass), and organic remains that come from wastewater and water treatment sludges, solid urban waste, etc./p>

 

Clean energy

Biomass can be applied in several sectors: in industry, the home and the service sector, because it provides considerable energetic and economic advantages vis-à-vis the environment, making it one of the main renewable energy sources installed in recent years in these sectors.

Many installations with biomass boilers use pellets as fuel, a long, granular fuel produced from pressing sawdust, which has high calorific value. It is a way to exploit a renewable residue to obtain energy for heating, hot water, and even for refrigeration systems. It is safe to store, is not toxic and allows the automation of its production (pressing), transport and use in boilers through a silo. Boilers can also use wood chips as a fuel, a residue that offers the same advantages as pellets.

The impact of biomass is notably lower than that arising from the use of fossil fuels. Its sulphur and metals content is much lower than them, and the CO2 emitted in the combustion of biomass is NEUTRAL in the CO2 cycle, as the same amount is emitted as that observed by the plant during its growth phase.

It can also be used to eliminate a number of residues. For example, the use of forestry biomass reduces the risk of forest fires because it uses forestry residues. The use of other forms of biomass, such as sludge from wastewater treatment plants (the so-called ‘black bleach’) in the papermaking sector also contribute to the useful treatment of waste products.

The use of biomass in Euskadi

Biomass is the most-used renewable energy source, not including biofuels used in vehicles. More than 3,000 thermal biomass installations (to produce heat) are in service in Euskadi, with installed capacity of over 100 MW, in places such as sports centres, cultural centres, public institutions and industries, housing, etc.

One of the most abundant biomass resources in Euskadi is forestry biomass, as there are sufficient resources of wood to cover the heating needs of the buildings of the different public administrations. Specifically, Basque forests have stocks of potentially-exploitable wood products of over 62 million cubic metres. This is a large amount of energy stored in our forests which, far from being exhausted, continues to rise and represents an opportunity to generalise the use of a locally-produced and renewable energy source, at a competitive price in relation to commonly-used fuels for heating, also generating employment in rural areas in the process.