Going Green

Biomass Energy PH: From Waste to Watts

Experts are suggesting a possible switch to a fully sustainable global energy landscape within the next 30 years. How, you say? By using renewable energy resources like hydropower, geothermal power, wind energy, and solar energy! However, there’s another one that’s also good for the environment and can deliver just as much energy as the others. It comes in the form of biomass energy.

Now the good thing is, the Philippines has large and abundant supplies of biomass resources. We can use these so-called biomass resources to turn them into biomass energy. It’s literally turning waste products into energy! Do we have your attention yet? If your answer is ‘yes’ then read on!

Sources of Biomass in the Philippines

The biomass industry in the Philippines, while still far behind fossil fuel-based power generation, is rapidly advancing. The term biomass normally refers to biological material that can be used as fuel. It can be something as simple as a wooden log or more complex like alcohol.

For millennia, biomass has been the primary energy source on the planet. It is important to note though, that while all fossil fuels such as coal and oil originate from vegetation, they are excluded from the definition of biomass.

The country has abundant supplies of biomass energy resources in the form of agricultural crop residues, forest residues, animal wastes, agro-industrial wastes, municipal solid wastes, and aquatic biomass. The most common agricultural wastes are rice hull, bagasse, cane trash, coconut shell/husk, and coconut coir.

As fossil fuel prices continue to rise, the use of crop residues as biofuels is increasing in the Philippines. Rice hull is perhaps the most important, underdeveloped biomass resource that could be fully utilized in a sustainable manner.

Biomass Technologies in the Philippines

At present, biomass technologies utilized in the country vary from the use of bagasse as boiler fuel for cogeneration, rice/coconut husks dryers for crop drying, biomass gasifiers for mechanical and electrical applications, fuelwood and agricultural wastes for oven, kiln, furnace and cook-stoves for cooking and heating purposes. Additionally, biomass technologies represent the largest installations in the Philippines in comparison with other renewable energy, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas abatement technologies.

Role of Biomass in the Country

Biomass energy plays a vital role in the nation’s energy supply. Nearly 30% of the energy for the 90-plus million people living in the Philippines comes from biomass. This is mostly evident in household cooking by the rural poor. Biomass energy application accounts for around 15% of the primary energy use in the country. At present, the resources available in the Philippines can generate biomass projects with a potential capacity of more than 200 MW.

The residential sector bears most of the blame, with almost 73% of this biomass use traced to its cooking needs, while industrial and commercial applications account for the rest. Makes one wonder, do mass-feeding methods such as community kitchens and workplace cafeterias lower this consumption significantly? It may be worth studying. There may be very simple solutions out there to these complicated problems.

For now, the Philippine should continue its pursuit of sustainable energy sources: namely biomass, solar, geothermal, hydro, and wind. Imagine a future powered only by renewable energy sources like biomass energy! It would definitely be a sight to see!

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