Resource Profile: Biomass Energy in Utah
Biomass is an expansive resource area that includes everything from municipal solid waste and wastewater to agricultural waste, food processing byproducts, and various plant-based materials. Not only is the resource profile broad, but the various technologies through which the feedstocks are “developed” are equally diverse, ranging from pyrolysis and torrefaction to gasification and incineration, and even to various forms of biodigestion. Oftentimes opportunities to generate electricity through biomass provide dual benefits, addressing problems associated with waste, while at the same time providing electricity and/or liquid fuels.
In one useful example of this phenomenon, the utilization of woody biomass can serves to reduce heavy fuel loads and to reduce the size and intensity of Utah’s annual summer wildfires, while at the same time generating bio-oil and marketable biochar. Given the impact of wildfires on Utah’s air quality, the utilization of biomass for energy has the potential to substantially reduce the emissions associated with these burns. The use of woody biomass for energy offsets the release of fossilized carbon that has been geologically stored in the form of coal, oil and gas when it is burned for energy. Sustainable biomass industries will aid in promoting forest health, watershed protection, renewable energy development, renewable resource utilization, and rural job development.