Biomass Power Generation the Key to Carbon-Negative Energy, Study Concludes
by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest) In California, a new UC Berkeley study shows that if biomass electricity production is combined with carbon capture and sequestration in the western United States, by 2050 power generators could reduce emissions up to 145 percent from 1990 levels, even while retaining gas- or coal-burning plants. Such reductions can occur with as little as 7 percent of the power coming from “Bioenergy combined with Carbon Capture & Sequestration”, also known as BECCS.
Generating electricity from biomass, such as urban waste and sustainably-sourced forest and crop residues, is carbon-neutral: it produces as much carbon as the plants suck out of the atmosphere.
In this case, the emissions generated from the system are aggregated at a single point, the power plant — as opposed to being released at thousands of points as in th case of biofuels used in transportation. This allows the emissions to be captured — and in the case of Carbon Capture and Sequestration, stored. In this way, carbon is essentially brought from the forest, crop or residue source and used to generate energy, but the resulting emission is captured and stored. Then, the next generation of crop or forest would pull its CO2 from atmospheric carbon, accumulating stored carbon with each cycle.
(Daniel) Sanchez noted that burning biomass as part of BECCS may have a greater impact on greenhouse gas emissions than using these same feedstocks for biofuels, solely because of the possibility of carbon capture.
“Biomass, if managed sustainably can provide the ‘sink’ for carbon that, if utilized in concert with low-carbon generation technologies, can enable us to reduce carbon in the atmosphere,” said (Daniel) Kammen, a Professor of Energy in UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group and director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) in which the work was conducted.
To remedy this, the UC Berkeley scientists used a detailed computer model they developed of the West’s electric power grid to predict deployment of BECCS in low-carbon and carbon-negative power systems. This model of western North America, called SWITCH-WECC, was developed in the RAEL lab. READ MORE