Will biomass energy still remain relevant once battery technology comes of age?
Updated: Jul 27, 2020
Biomass energy is currently one of the few viable renewable energies that allow for baseload energy generation. Baseload energy is critical to the stability of the national energy grid infrastructure, and as such, it is the ideal substitute for fossil fuels such as coal, which are typically used for baseload energy generation.
But, with battery storage technology advancing rapidly, the argument is that the combination of photovoltaics and other intermittent renewables will become able to supply energy consistently, at an economically viable level, and thus replacing the need for all other power generation.
Once battery technology does mature and become cost effective at scale, solar and wind derived baseload energy would become possible – however, the generation capacities of solar and wind energies would need to be increased significantly to off-set their intermittence. To produce baseload energy from solar PV and batteries at night, you would need 2-3 times the installed solar PV capacity available to charge the batteries sufficiently for the night-time use as well as produce energy for daytime needs.
Additionally, the current battery technologies are dependent on rare earth elements such as lithium, which is limited in quantity, so the question is whether there is enough lithium available to produce batteries on a scale large enough to replace fossil fuels.
Lastly, biomass energy is multifaceted. Not only can it be used to generate power at various scales, but it can also be used to generate heat and, in effect, cooling. This combination offers it flexibility over alternative energy solutions, and exploiting flexibility makes it more cost effective. Additionally, in many cases, the ash/char by-product of biomass energy generation can be used in agricultural or industrial applications.
It is in this line of thought that we believe there will always be a place for biomass energy within the global energy mix.