By Monica Ngage

The current increase in pollution has greatly contributed to climate change, therefore, there’s need to shift to clean and renewable sources of energy. There exists several sources of renewable energy. However, whenever renewable energy is mentioned, we quickly think of solar energy, perhaps due to is popularity among many people. 

There are other renewable energy sources such as biomass energy which is generated from plants e.g. corn & animal waste such as cow dung. It is renewable in that we can grow crops and trees over & over again. 

Biomass energy can be obtained in 3 ways: 

  • Burning- burning biomass generates heat which can be used to heat homes or create steam which can then generate electricity  
  • Biofuels- crops such as sugarcane can be converted into a biofuel known as ethanol. This can be to used fuel cars. In addition, vegetable oils and animal fats can generate biodiesel which can be used as heating oil and also to power vehicles. 
  • Methane gas- rotting biomass generates methane gas which can be used to make natural gas which is a common source of energy. 

Biomass and the Environment

Despite the fact that it is renewable, generation of biomass energy has several negative impacts on the environment. Some of these include: 

  • If not checked, can lead to deforestation when trees are cut to generate wood fuel 
  • Air pollution from burning releases greenhouse gas such as CO2 into the atmosphere 
  • The land cleared for growing corn and sugar cane can reduce habitats and destroy ecosystems 
  • Opportunity cost whereby the land used for growing biomass could be used to grow other crops for food 
  • Planting of crops and trees require use of fertilizers and other chemicals that can cause water pollution 

In conclusion, although biomass energy is renewable, it could also have adverse effects on the environment and there is need to come with a ways to strike a balance between the two.