Biogas, Syngas, Biomass power plants share some similarities with fossil fuel power plants: they all involve the combustion of a feedstock to generate electricity. For example, biomass plants raise similar, but not identical, concerns about air emissions and water use as fossil fuel plants. However, the feedstock of biomass plants can be sustainable produced, while fossil fuels are non-renewable. Sources of biomass resources to produce electricity are diverse, including energy crops (like switchgrass), agricultural waste, manure, forest products and waste, and urban waste.
Both the type of feedstock and the manner in which it is developed and harvested significantly affect land use and life-cycle, biomass producing power impacts global warming emissions. Burning biomass to produce electricity can impact air quality. The level of air emissions associated with biomass power plants varies depending on the feedstock, combustion technology, and types of installed pollution controls, but the most common pollutants include nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide, and particulate matter. In general, biomass facilities emit less SO2 and mercury than coal.
Nitrogen oxides from biomass are lower than those from coal but higher than natural gas. NOx emissions cause ground-level ozone, or smog, which can burn lung tissue and can make people more susceptible to asthma, bronchitis, and other chronic respiratory diseases. Like SO2, NOx also contributes to acid rain and the formation of harmful particulate matter. Biomass power plants also emit high levels of particulates (soot and ash) and carbon monoxide. Readily available technologies, such as fluidized bed or gasification systems, and electrostatic precipitators, can help reduce NOx, CO, and particulate emissions associated with biomass power. ATP Environment can give you an evaluation of the qualitative characteristics and the economic properties of the various technologies available.
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