11 May 2008

Energy in Biomass vs. Other Forms

How much energy is contained in dry wood biomass as compared to other forms of energy? Let's take a look:

  1. 1 kg of dry wood contains about 5 kWh of energy
  2. 1 kg of torrefied wood contains about 6 kWh
  3. 1 kg of coal contains about 7 kWh
  4. 1 kg of diesel contains about 12 kWh
  5. 1 cubic meter of natural gas contains about 8 kWh
  6. 1 fully charged 12 V car battery contains about 0.6 kWh
...one of the fundamental properties of biomass is that it is more local than fossil fuels, simply because it is less concentrated with respect to energy. On the other hand – this tends to promote local, small scale, sustainable business in the forest regions of the country. So the use of biomass for energy does not only have a positive impact on the climate issue – it also has a positive impact on the local economy and on the local employment rate. __VXU
Initially, biomass is most logical as a local and regional energy source and cash business/employer. But things are apt to move very quickly as capital and innovation are brought to the bio-energy sector. The main initial obstacle to biomass energy on the local level is the lack of local/regional pre-processing, processing, and bio-refinery infrastructure. As the potential boost to local economies is demonstrated by functioning infrastructure, expect the concept to spread.

Currently, much of the impetus behind ethanol and biodiesel forms of biofuels, comes from the national governmental and inter-governmental guidelines, mandates, and incentives. But such forms of governmental incentive are subject to change--particularly when governments and legislatures are run by incompetent fools, as is typically the case currently.

The more reliable long-term incentive is of course the ability to make a profit based upon sound business practise and efficient industrial engineering. That is the type of incentive that biomass energy provides long term. For example:
Let's focus our energy on the research and development and innovation that allows us to produce a $1-a-gallon fuel. There's no question about it, we can produce it for $1 a gallon and retail it at Wal-Mart for $1.99 a gallon and create a competitor for oil. __SFGate_via_R-Squared
Khosla is referring to cellulosic ethanol, but he may as well be referring to algal biodiesel or Venter's new designed synthetic organisms, or any number of other forms of bio-energy development in the pipeline.

Prices are always high for new technologies. Then as the infrastructure gets built and innovated, customer bases are built, retail outlets sign on, and supply lines are secured, etc. prices come down. But we have to understand roughly what we can expect from bio-energy.


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