Biomass fuel is a big issue in the production of energy that is considered both good for the environment and sustainable over the long term. Many of the biomass power plants that have been proposed or are currently in use have questions raised over just how good for the environment they actually are.
The fuel that is used to power the biomass burners has to be freighted in from somewhere and this is going to add to the carbon footprint of the process. The fuel itself may be able to be put to better use as a potential food source or as fodder for farm animals.
There are many arguments that arise over any kind of renewable energy and the benefits and disadvantages for using it.
What it does do, though, is that it promotes technological progress. We start to learn more about the scientific processes surrounding products that we may have once considered to be worthless. We may also discover that some of these products can be used in a range of different ways that turn expensive manufacturing procedures into very cost effective procedures.
One of the products that was mentioned in an earlier post was Napier Grass. This is a cane-line species of grass that is also commonly known as Elephant grass because it is a favourite food source of the elephant. It has more recently been brought from Africa where it grows in abundance and used as a fodder for cattle.
It was found that it can be grown just about anywhere with the exception of waterlogged areas and it is fast growing and prolific. After years of research it has been found that some varieties of Napier grass are suited to being grown for energy production, largely because it can be grown without a dependence on nitrogenous fertilizers.
Not only can it be grown in poor soils, it can also be grown in soil that has been rendered toxic through mining activities. This might be considered amazing enough but there is evidence to suggest that the grass draws the toxic materials out of the soil and improves its condition as a result. If this grass can be grown in areas that were written off as too toxic for use and then cultivated for use in biomass power plants we may have stumbled upon a means of not only providing a viable biomass fuel, but also a way of reclaiming land that was otherwise considered unusable.
It appears that there is a great deal to like about Napier grass and its potential is enormous, not only for the creation of fuel and energy but also as a fodder crop that will grow in all kinds of conditions, including the most adverse conditions.
One of the biggest disadvantages of Napier grass might actually also be one of its biggest advantages and that’s the fact that it is an aggressive growing plant that spreads through rhizomes under the ground. It is invasive and can invade crop fields if it is not kept under control.
If Napier grass provides renewable energy, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it were to start to grow in abundance.