Bioenergy is made available through biomass technologies that include a range of techniques for obtaining useable energy from natural materials like crops, trees, woody wastes, grasses, or animal wastes. These materials can be converted into heat, liquid fuel (biofuels), methane (biogas), or electricity (biopower). Biomass technologies range from simply burning wood for home heating to new high-tech processes for creating ethanol from fast-growing energy crops. Thus, these technologies run the gamut from inefficient and potentially polluting to quite efficient and clean.

NY Policy

Because there is such a range of biomass approaches, New York's renewable energy policy expressly excludes certain technologies, like the burning of municipal solid waste. Though trash burning can be used to produce electricity, it is not truly a renewable technology. It also produces significant air pollution, including dioxin and other toxic emissions. For this reason, trash burning is not considered a clean, renewable technology.

Benefits of Bioenergy

Clean biomass energy does have great environmental potential. For example, combustion of biomass releases almost no sulfur, the pollutant that causes acid rain. This combustion does release carbon dioxide, the major global warming pollutant, but an equal amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) was absorbed during the growth of the trees or crops that are burned. So biomass energy is "carbon neutral" as the CO2 is recycled, minimizing the impact on global climate change.

One type of biomass energy is methane gas or “biogas” produced by decomposing waste. Methane is produced when waste decomposes at landfills, sewage treatment plants, and farms. This gas can be collected, processed, and used as fuel. When this natural decomposition process is enhanced using new technologies, such as methane digesters for manure or advanced gasification techniques for other wastes, the process becomes more efficient and clean. In this way, biogas projects avoid the use of fossil fuel and avoid the release of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Some types of bioenergy - but not all - are included in New York's Clean Energy Standard. ACE NY member companies include those that are generating electricity from clean biomass combustion and from biogas from waste processing.

Links & Resources 

NREL Biomass Research
US DOE: Biomass
NYSERDA Biomass Research and Development