Biomass Energy and Sustainability

Biomass energy systems offer significant possibilities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions due to their immense potential to replace fossil fuels in energy production. Biomass reduces emissions and enhances carbon sequestration since short-rotation crops or forests established on abandoned agricultural land accumulate carbon in the soil. Biomass energy usually provides an irreversible mitigation effect by reducing carbon dioxide at source, but it may emit more carbon per unit of energy than fossil fuels unless biomass fuels are produced in a sustainable manner.

Biomass resources can play a major role in reducing the reliance on fossil fuels by making use of thermo-chemical conversion technologies. In addition, the increased utilization of biomass-based fuels will be instrumental in safeguarding the environment, generation of new job opportunities, sustainable development and health improvements in rural areas.

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The development of efficient biomass handling technology, improvement of agro-forestry systems and establishment of small and large-scale biomass-based power plants can play a major role in sustainable development of rural as well as urban areas. Biomass energy could also aid in modernizing the agricultural economy and creating significant job opportunities.

Harvesting practices remove only a small portion of branches and tops leaving sufficient biomass to conserve organic matter and nutrients. Moreover, the ash obtained after combustion of biomass compensates for nutrient losses by fertilizing the soil periodically in natural forests as well as fields.

The impact of forest biomass utilization on the ecology and biodiversity has been found to be insignificant. Infact, forest residues are environmentally beneficial because of their potential to replace fossil fuels as an energy source.

A quick glance at popular biomass resources

A quick glance at popular biomass resources

Plantation of energy crops on abandoned agricultural land will lead to an increase in species diversity. The creation of structurally and species diverse forests helps in reducing the impacts of insects, diseases and weeds. Similarly the artificial creation of diversity is essential when genetically modified or genetically identical species are being planted.

Short-rotation crops give higher yields than forests so smaller tracts are needed to produce biomass which results in the reduction of area under intensive forest management. An intelligent approach in forest management will go a long way in the realization of sustainability goals.

Improvements in agricultural practices promises to increased biomass yields, reductions in cultivation costs, and improved environmental quality. Extensive research in the fields of plant genetics, analytical techniques, remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) will immensely help in increasing the energy potential of biomass feedstock.

A large amount of energy is expended in the cultivation and processing of crops like sugarcane, coconut, and rice which can met by utilizing energy-rich residues for electricity production. The integration of biomass-fueled gasifiers in coal-fired power stations would be advantageous in terms of improved flexibility in response to fluctuations in biomass availability and lower investment costs. The growth of the biomass energy industry can also be achieved by laying more stress on green power marketing.

The Advantages of Eco-Friendly Energy Sources

You’ve heard all about it before: global warming and pollution have been steadily impacting our planet little by little each year. Sure, we’ve all probably been asked to write an essay about how to help solve our environmental problems, but do we really live our lives as sustainably as we should?

With all the talks about climate change, one of the most significant changes consumers can make is to switch to renewable energy. True enough, its growing popularity has made it the fastest-growing energy source in the country. You might be thinking, “Does the source of my electricity really matter?” The answer is a resounding yes! To prove it to you, we’ve rounded up the advantages of eco-friendly energy sources down below.

1. It Reduces Greenhouse Gases

Using traditional energy creates a huge environmental impact on air, water, and land resources. Currently, the world mainly produces electricity through coal and gas—two of the biggest contributors to the rising levels of CO2 on the planet.

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The accumulated greenhouse gas is responsible for the greenhouse effect, increasing the earth’s average surface temperature. Additionally, this temperature change disrupts the ecosystem,  causing more plant and animal species to decline in number, ultimately affecting our biodiversity.

In contrast, the use of renewable energy (e.g., solar, geothermal, biomass) does not require burning fossil fuels. Thus, it drives down carbon emission and significantly reduces the total amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.

2. It Gets Cheaper Every Year

The growing popularity of eco-friendly energy sources has resulted in a lot of positive changes for the economy. For instance, at least two-thirds of the world now offer clean energy as a cheaper alternative to fossil fuels.

To add to that, Eligo Energy’s report discovered that 65% of Americans are willing to pay for green electricity despite it being more expensive. Due to the increased investments in new technology and government subsidies, renewable energy is steadily becoming more affordable.

Moreover, renewables, like solar and wind energy, do not have price hikes. The same cannot be said for fossil fuels which become more expensive over time. Finite resources also have extreme market volatility, something that companies have no control over. Effective policies can be done easier around renewable energy, as it offers long-term stability in the market.

3. It’s Beneficial to Your Health

It’s no secret that factories powered by coal produce dark smoke that rises to the sky. What’s worse, this smoke contains traces of mercury, arsenic, and sulfur dioxide—all toxic pollutants that pose many dangers to public health.

The smog and air pollution make us more vulnerable to respiratory diseases like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer. WHO even estimated that seven million lives are lost each year due to air pollution.

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Choosing to make use of renewables will definitely be the healthier option, as it decreases the need for more coal to be burned. Green energy answers the problem of air pollution and will pave the way for improved air quality, saving millions of lives worldwide.

4. It Saves a Lot of Water

While the earth is mainly made up of water, only a very few percent of that is usable for us humans. Therefore, water is a precious commodity we should conserve. However, power plants use hundreds of thousands of gallons of water just to generate electricity. Likewise,  the extraction and production of fossil fuels rely on a lot of water too.

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Switching to green electricity greatly helps in conserving water. For instance, wind and solar energy plants barely need water to operate; the occasional washing of solar panels and turbine planes are most probably the only times you’ll ever need water. Indeed, renewable energy sources are a long-term water-saving solution.

5. It Provides Job Opportunities

As more companies and governments venture into increasing the accessibility of green energy, more jobs have been opened to workers around the globe. In fact, these opportunities are also available for those without college degrees! Building factories, solar panels, and wind turbines are great examples of the many jobs high in demand on the market right now.

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There is also a growing need for specialists and experts. Engineers, financial analysts, renewable energy consultants, and even farmers are all needed to study the endless possibilities of clean energy for different industries.

Automakers, for example, have invested in renewables to create electric-powered vehicles. Apart from electrical and mechanical engineers, they will have to hire more assembly line workers. As these newer cars become more efficient, it won’t be soon enough for consumers to choose them over the traditional gas-fueled vehicles.

Conclusion

As climate change takes a toll on the world, we have to make significant changes to our ways before it’s too late. Fortunately, our technologies have advanced enough to be able to generate electricity from eco-friendly sources.

With all the advantages it brings, green energy is predicted to run the world a few decades from now. Indeed, renewables are the energy of the future, and it’s high time for you to make the right switch.

4 Ways for Finding the Most Affordable Electricity Supplier

Have you recently checked out your energy tariffs? If not, then you need to be paying more attention to it now. Keep in mind that your energy bill doesn’t merely indicate or show how much energy you consume.

Take note that your postcode plays an essential role in tracking down how much you pay. According to your region, energy providers charge different rates, although they’re offering the same service. Even if there’s hardly anything you can do about price variations, you can look for the most affordable electricity provider in your region and ensure you are on the optimal tariff.

To save on your energy bill, it might be time to switch to a new supplier. For a little help, here’s how you can find one.

1. Compare Energy Prices

To analyze all the tariffs for every region as well as the payment method to discover the most inexpensive electricity supplier near you, you can leverage many online services such as the Compare Texas Electricity Rates, Prices & Plans at Eligo Energy.

To start, you need to register online your postcode or zipcode and information about your usage, tariff, and energy supplier. Once you’re done, you can compare deals throughout the market and get the best offer possible.

Keep in mind that aside from ensuring you are on the best available energy deal, you can keep electricity and gas bills to a minimum by making sure that your home is energy efficient. There are short-term measures to save energy that includes;

  • Using low-consumption bulbs.
  • Lowering down your thermostat by one degree.
  • When using an electric kettle, it is wise only to heat as much water.
  • Choose draught-proof doors and windows to cut down heat loss.
  • Turn off standby electrical items.

What’s more, there are long-term measures to save energy that includes;

  • Installing a condensing boiler.
  • Proper insulation.
  • Installing cavity wall insulation.
  • Purchasing energy-efficient electrical items.

2. Switching Incentives and Refer-A-Friend

A lot of energy providers are now presenting or providing financial rewards for shifting to them. And it includes refer-a-friend deals. So, if you are invited to switch energy providers through a refer-a-friend scheme, ensure you check and examine the following:

  • Customer service
  • Exit fees
  • Attached conditions to the switching incentive
  • Price compared to other deals
  • Price of the tariff

3. Variable Vs. Fixed Energy Tariffs

More often than not, energy deals arrive in two types: variable and fixed. The question now is, which is best for you? Variable tariffs can alter in price every time your energy provider changes its rates. The default tariff of your supplier will typically be a variable deal.

That said, if you are committed to an energy provider for a couple of years, or did not change after your fixed tariff ended, it is likely that you are on its default tariff. Take note that default tariffs are liable to a price cap, which is a cap on the price for every energy unit, not on your total bill.

Even so, a few small energy suppliers provide variable tariffs that are more affordable compared to large suppliers. Although they can alter their rates too, these suppliers are surely worth considering, especially if you want to pay less without a fixed contract.

On the other hand, fixed tariffs settle the amount you pay for every energy unit you consume for the particular period. Meaning, you know the price beforehand, and it will not increase throughout the contract period. Therefore, if the energy provider increases its prices, yours won’t. However, you will not benefit if the prices decrease, either.

Which is more affordable between the two? Well, the most inexpensive deals out there tend to be a combination of variable and fixed. As such, it is not easy to choose between the two.

4. Avoiding Exit Fees

Before you even decide to change the energy provider, be sure to check the agreements or terms of your deal. If you choose to withdraw a fixed tariff before your contract ends, you might have to pay an exit fee.

However, do not let this dismay you because not all fixed-term deals include exit fees. So, if you switch, better choose one without exit fees. Also, your energy provider cannot charge an exit fee if you shift provider in the last forty-nine days of your term. Moreover, if you are moving home, you don’t need to pay exit fees.

Takeaway

If you have switched energy providers, there are a few things you can do to ensure that your bills are accurate. You can send your meter readings to your provider to ensure you are being billed only for what you consume. Aside from this, you can ask for a refund if you are unduly in credit.

Also, be sure to determine the end date of your fixed-term tariff before you switch to a new deal so that you won’t be moved to a default tariff.

Can We Create Zero Waste?

A zero waste society is something we all agree would be ideal. Imagine if everything used could be turned into a new product or go back into the earth. Several companies are moving their businesses into biodegradable containers, which means that maybe we can rethink landfills. Even Coca-Cola has said that by 2025, their bottles will be compostable, which could be a gamechanger.

biodegradable-containers

How Should We Change our Habits?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2018, the average American produced 4.9lbs of waste per day. This number might not seem that high, however, calculate that figure for all of the US, and you are now looking at 292.4m tons. This number helps us understand the society we live in and the changes needed.

Why Recycling isn’t the Answer?

Most people think, “I’ve used a bottle, recycled it, and now I’ve done my part.” There’s a lot more to this, though. How was that bottle made? Plastics, as we know them, harm our environment. Zero waste means we don’t think about recycling. The product is simply gone or used.

Many of us believe that all plastic is recycled, and if that is the case, we will reach zero wastage. However, when we look closer, only a small percentage of these recycled products is used to create a new product. In other words, this is good for now, and in the future, we will be more resourceful.

The EPA’s strategy begins with the product life cycle. If each company considered how their product would be used and waste reduction, we could reach a zero wastage time sooner. Companies should therefore create either biodegradable or reusable packaging.

What is Composting?

Landfills require a lot of space and emit methane gasses into the air. Composting decreases wastage and aids plant growth. Composting requires you to take food scraps, which used to be considered garbage and turn them into a product.

benefits-composting

Vegetable scraps are ideal for composting as they can break down quite quickly. Using a three-stage composting bin, you can create rich soil, which is used as a fertilizer. If you don’t own a garden, there are often organizations that will request homemade compost.

Ways to Reach a Waste-free Society

As a consumer, we shouldn’t be using one-time plastic bags. We could opt for reusable material bags. Bring our coffee mugs when we want coffee on the go. When you buy takeout, have handy cutlery already on you, preventing you from using more plastic.

When you do your weekly food shopping, be mindful of what you will consume. By buying the right amount, you have already helped save the planet. If you find you bought too many vegetables, find a way to use them and freeze them for a future meal.

Our society makes us think that once we are seen in a clothing outfit, it’s old. T-shirts last for some time, and you don’t always need to replace mildly worn clothes. If the t-shirt is no longer “your style,” instead of throwing it away, donate it or give it to a friend. This will ensure it lives a bit longer. All these little changes can bring us toward a zero wastage life. There are many ways we can reach zero wastage. For more information, read more.

15 Simple Ways You and Your Family Can Save the Planet

Life, the miracle of the universe, appeared about 4 billion years ago, and we, humans – only 200,000 years ago. But we have already succeeded in destroying the balance that is so important for the life on Earth. What do we actually know about life on Earth? The tenth part? Or maybe the hundredth? Earth is a real miracle. Life remains a mystery.

Trees grow towards the sun, which feeds their foliage. Animals are adapted to their pastures, and their pastures are adapted to them. As a result, everyone wins. Animals satisfy hunger, and plants flourish again. In this great life journey on Earth, each species has a particular function and takes a certain place. There are no useless creatures. They are all balanced.

And Homo sapiens – a man of sense – enters the arena of history. He received a fabulous inheritance that the Earth has carefully preserved for 4 billion years. He is only 200,000 years old, but he has already changed the face of the world. Despite his vulnerability, he captured all the habitats and conquered the territory like no other species before him. Today, life – our life – is only a link in the chain of countless lives following one another on Earth for 4 billion years.

For a long time, the relationship between people and the planet were fairly balanced and resembled a natural and equal union. Now, we rarely think about global issues, being lost in everyday concerns. Meanwhile, we are on the verge of a disaster. Thanks to the achievements of science and technology, people learned to satisfy their needs, but some inventions brought us much more harm than good. We are killing our planet gradually but purposefully.

Planting more trees and vegetation will go a long way in reducing heat in urban settings.

Only by changing your habits quite a bit, you and your loved ones can make the world cleaner and safer. These 15 simple tips do not require you either time or extra effort, but can make a difference in saving the world:

  1. Make the most of natural ambient light. Turn off the light in the room or the computer monitor when you do not need it. And do not forget about the chargers in the appliance receptacle!
  2. Teach yourself to turn off the water at a time when you do not need it – for example, while brushing your teeth or rubbing the pan with a detergent. On average, according to statistics, 5-10 liters of water (depending on pressure) flows out of the tap per minute. Also, reduce the time spent in the shower for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Replace incandescent bulbs with LED lights: they save energy and last longer.
  4. Change to a bike. It is cool, fast, and comfortable. Having tried only once, you no longer want to get on the “hot bus” or spend time stuck in traffic jams. In addition, a bicycle is an excellent vehicle as it does not pollute the air with dangerous gases.
  5. Use phosphate-free detergents. On the Internet, there are many resources offering ecological household chemicals.
  6. Buy less plastic bags, go to the store with your eco-bag.
  7. Replace plastic with paper and glass. If you cannot do without disposable tableware – for example, when going on a picnic – use paper plates and cups rather than plastic ones.
  8. Choose cosmetics and chemicals especially carefully. You should give preference to products that have not been tested on animals and do not adversely affect the environment at different stages of production.
  9. Though it is as simple as ABC but very effective – try to bring plastic, glass, and paper for recycling.
  10. Bring batteries to special shops and institutions because this is a dangerous and very toxic type of waste.
  11. Refuse semi-finished products. Experts say that today, the manufacture of these products is fully controlled by monopoly companies that abuse antibiotics, overload the ecosystem, and apply the principles of intensive management for their own profit. Of course, in such conditions, quality suffers. Homemade food is much better. Do not know how to cook? A dating site may be helpful.
  12. Buy local food – the one that is made in your area. This food undergoes less chemical treatment which is sometimes used for long-term transportation.
  13. Use water filters. In this case, you do not need to spend money on bottled drinking water. Thus, you will not only save your family budget but also reduce the environmental impact caused by the production and transportation of plastic bottles.
  14. Plant flowers on window sills and trees in the courtyards. Do not let anyone cut down green spaces near your house.
  15. Support environmental organizations and encourage your family to do it.

“Orbiting Earth, I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it!”

– Yuri Gagarin

5 Sustainable Gardening Practices for a Greener Garden

There’s no question that there is quite a bit of buzz around organic and sustainable gardening along with permaculture. Everyone wants access to safe veggies, fruits and even eggs, which means that many of the older “Victorian” style practices of gardening and keeping animals and poultry are really making a comeback. There are more and more people practicing urban agriculture in backyards and vacant lots across the country.

If you are interested in joining this group of eco-conscious individuals, then be sure to implement the top sustainable gardening ideas found here.

1. Reduce the Size of Your Lawn

Rather than having your entire property covered in grass and plants, consider adding more hardscape fixtures as time passes. As you do this, you can minimize the upkeep, water, and other maintenance that your lawn needs. It will also minimize the tools that you need to care for your garden and make the use of smaller, more green hand tools, like the ones at Easy Digging, a viable option when it comes to caring for your lawn.

2. Gather Water On-Site

In the past, people would say that “rainwater does magic on plants.” This is a phrase that has some truth to it. There is nothing quite as effective as rainwater when it comes to encouraging your garden to grow. Rather than letting the water runoff your property before it can soak in, why not gather some and use it for your plants. This is a great way to reduce the amount of water that you have to use from public or drilled sources, thus helping with water conservation.

3. Create a Compost Pile

You can create your own compost pile by using non-meat kitchen scraps and other plant materials. When done properly, you can create rich black soil. Rather than putting grass clippings and leaves in your garbage, add them to your compost, too. If you don’t want to start this from scratch, you can purchase a “starter” compost pile and then add to it.

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4. Mulch with the Materials You Have Available

You can mulch with the materials that are readily available to you, such as wood chips, pine needles, and leaves. These are going to help keep the soil moist while enriching it and minimizing the presence of weeds. Avoid using cypress much because this is usually made from grinding and harvesting younger trees which is not a sustainable gardening method.

5. Use Native Plants

Only use the plants that are native to your area. This is going to help ensure they can grow with little intervention from you.

Are You Using Sustainable Gardening Practices?

As you can see, there are several ways you can make your gardening efforts more sustainable and more eco-friendly. Consider implementing the tips here and see how your property can flourish while you are still doing something good for the planet. It’s a win-win situation that will help you save time, money, and effort while still having a beautiful lawn.

Waste-to-Energy in India: An Interview with Salman Zafar

India’s waste-to-energy sector, which kicked off in 1987, is still searching for a successful role model, even after tens of millions of dollars of investment. In recent years, many ambitious waste-to-energy projects have been established or are being planned in different parts of the country, and it is hoped that things will brighten up in the coming years. Salman Zafar, CEO of BioEnergy Consult, talks to Power Today magazine on India’s tryst with waste-to-energy and highlights major challenges and obstacles in making waste-to-energy a success story in India.

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Power Today: What are the challenges that the Waste to Energy sector faces in the current scenario where there is a rejuvenated interest in clean energy? Do you think the buzz around solar and wind power has relegated the Waste to Energy sector to the back benches?

Salman Zafar: India’s experience with waste-to-energy has been lackluster until now. The progress of waste-to-energy sector in India is hampered by multiples issues including

  1. poor quality of municipal waste,
  2. high capital and O&M costs of waste-to-energy systems,
  3. lack of indigenous technology,
  4. lack of successful projects and failure of several ambitious projects,
  5. lack of coordination between municipalities, state and central governments,
  6. heavy reliance on government subsidies,
  7. difficulties in obtaining long-term Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with state electricity boards (SEBs)
  8. lukewarm response of banks and financial institutions and (9) weak supply chain.

Waste-to-energy is different from solar (or wind) as it essentially aims to reduce the colossal amount of solid wastes accumulating in cities and towns all over India. In addition to managing wastes, waste-to-energy has the added advantage of producing power which can be used to meet rapidly increasing energy requirements of urban India.

In my opinion, waste-to-energy sector has attracted renewed interest in the last couple of years due to Swachch Bharat Mission, though government’s heavy focus on solar power has impacted the development of waste-to-energy as well as biomass energy sectors.

Power Today: India has a Waste to Energy potential of 17,000 MW, of which only around 1,365 MW has been realised so far. How much growth do you expect in the sector?

Salman Zafar: As per Energy Statistics 2015 (refer to http://mospi.nic.in/Mospi_New/upload/Energy_stats_2015_26mar15.pdf), waste-to-energy potential in India is estimated to be 2,556 MW, of which approximately 150 MW (around 6%) has been harnessed till March 2016.

The progress of waste-to-energy sector in India is dependent on resolution of MSW supply chain issues, better understanding of waste management practices, lowering of technology costs and flexible financial model. For the next two years, I am anticipating an increase of around 75-100 MW of installed capacity across India.

Power Today: On the technological front, what kinds of advancements are happening in the sector?

Salman Zafar: Nowadays, advanced thermal technologies like MBT, thermal depolymerisation, gasification, pyrolysis and plasma gasification are hogging limelight, mainly due to better energy efficiency, high conversion rates and less emissions. Incineration is still the most popular waste-to-energy technology, though there are serious emission concerns in developing countries as many project developers try to cut down costs by going for less efficient air pollution control system.

Power Today: What according to you, is the general sentiment towards setting up of Waste to Energy plants? Do you get enough cooperation from municipal bodies, since setting up of plants involves land acquisition and capital expenditure?

Salman Zafar: MSW-to-energy projects, be it in India or any other developing country, is plagued by NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) effect. The general attitude towards waste-to-energy is that of indifference resulting in lukewarm public participation and community engagement in such projects.

Government should setup dedicated waste-to-energy research centres to develop lost-cost and low-tech waste to energy solutions

Government should setup dedicated waste-to-energy research centres to develop lost-cost and low-tech waste to energy solutions

Lack of cooperation from municipalities is a major factor in sluggish growth of waste-to-energy sector in India. It has been observed that sometimes municipal officials connive with local politicians and ‘garbage mafia’ to create hurdles in waste collection and waste transport.

Supply of poor quality feedstock to waste-to-energy plants by municipal bodies has led to failure of several high-profile projects, such as 6 MW MSW-to-biogas project in Lucknow, which was shut down within a year of commissioning due to waste quality issues.

Power Today: Do you think that government policies are in tandem when it comes to enabling this segment? What policies need to be changed, evolved or adopted to boost this sector?

Salman Zafar: A successful waste management strategy demands an integrated approach where recycling and waste-to-energy are given due importance in government policies. Government should strive to setup a dedicated waste-to-energy research centre to develop a lost-cost and low-tech solution to harness clean energy from millions of tons of waste generated in India.

The government is planning many waste-to-energy projects in different cities in the coming years which may help in easing the waste situation to a certain extent. However, government policies should be inclined towards inclusive waste management, whereby the informal recycling community is not robbed of its livelihood due to waste-to-energy projects.

Government should also try to create favourable policies for establishment of decentralized waste-to-energy plants as big projects are a logistical nightmare and more prone to failure than small-to-medium scale venture.