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Bioenergy - How it works

What is Bioenergy?

The energy stored in biomass (organic matter) is called bioenergy. This energy has generally been produced through photosynthesis or is an organic by-product from a waste stream.

Bioenergy can be used to provide heat, make fuels, and generate electricity.
Wood, which people have used to cook and keep warm for thousands of years, is the biomass resource people are most familiar with. Today there are also many other types of biomass we can use to produce energy. These biomass resources, also known as feedstocks, include agricultural, forest and livestock residues; energy crops; aquatic plants; landfill gas and wastes produced by cities and factories.

Through a variety of processes, these feedstocks can be directly used to produce electricity or heat, or can be used to create gaseous, liquid, or solid fuels. The range of bioenergy technologies is broad and the technical maturity varies significantly.

Some examples of commercially available technologies include small- and large-scale boilers, domestic pellet-based heating systems, and ethanol production from sugar and starch. Liquid biofuel production from algae is an example of a potential bioenergy technology at the research and development (R&D) phase.