Sometimes, when one envisions the country of Canada, rolling prairies and green forests spring to mind. This is not an altogether inaccurate picture because the nation still embraces its beautiful and sustainable natural resources. One of these resources, a source of renewable energy, is biomass.
Biomass is simply a supply of something once living able to be burned to manufacture heat for energy production. In various parts of Canada, a traveler may see a series of haystacks or piles of wood chips waiting to be converted into electricity of other forms of power. Unlike coal or petroleum-based sources of energy, biomass is constantly being replenished either by the natural growth and decomposition of trees and grasses or as a byproduct of these same resources. In short, it is a renewable energy.
In terms of renewable energy in Canada, biomass is responsible for 6% of the power maintained in the nation. This is second only to hydroelectricity. It can come from forest residue, crop residue, and animal manure. The forestry and agricultural industries account for most of the country’s biomass supply.
Paper and foresting companies account for a large portion of those industries employing biomass as a renewable energy source in daily operations. Independent power suppliers around the country also use biomass to produce electricity. And on an even smaller scale, many homes still utilize fireplaces as the primary source of heat. A wide range of biomass, biofuel manufactures and suppliers are found across Canada.
CanmetENERGY is currently studying methods such as combustion, gasification, and transesterification (the use of new and used vegetable oil) as methods of converting and utilizing biomass. They are also concocting methods for the transportation, pre-processing, and storage of biomass.
Methane, sometimes in the form of what is called landfill gas, is known as a greenhouse gas; however, Canada has begun to collect the gas emitted at landfills not only resulting in less harmful emission into the atmosphere, but providing a means of energy production as well.
The province of Nova Scotia makes use of biomass quite often. Over 100,000 homes in Nova Scotia use firewood for heat and a 22 megawatt co-generation plant can be found in Brooklyn in Hants County. This plant, along with two electricity-producing sawmills, pellet manufacturers, and greenhouses all use production waste to power the facilities.
Although the use of biomass as a renewable energy source is not as abundant as it once was in Canada, the process is under way to follow Nova Scotia’s lead and bring Canada back to prominence in the field of biomass.