“Biomass energy is growing in importance because of a desire to move away from fossil fuels and toward renewable sources of energy and energy independence. Also, alternative energy portfolio standards requiring energy companies to use alternative sources for a percentage of the energy they sell are encouraging industry to invest in biomass. Biomass energy is listed as a Tier I alternative energy source in Pennsylvania.1 The other Tier I alternative energy sources in the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act (AEPS) are solar photo-voltaic and solar thermal energy, wind power, low-impact hydro-power, geothermal energy, biologically derived methane gas, fuel cells, and coal mine methane.2 The act requires that at least 8 percent of the electric energy sold by an electric distribution company or electric generation supplier to retail electric customers in the Commonwealth must be generated from Tier I alternative energy sources by 2020.
“Biomass is enticing because of the promise of carbon neutrality. The idea is that carbon emissions from biomass are offset by the prior absorption of carbon through photosynthesis, and the carbon will be reabsorbed when new biomass is grown. However, this carbon cycle would take place over many years because of the time needed to plant and grow new sources. It is also possible that biomass might be harvested at unsustainable rates and produce air pollution and net greenhouse gas emissions.”
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