Biopower Market on the Rise

Teresa Madaleno

Research suggests that the world’s biopower market is about to grow at a significant rate. Consulting firm GlobalData reports that the 106.2 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity recorded in 2015 will likely rise to at least 165.2 GW by the year 2025.

Biopower is the use of biomass to generate electricity. While bioenergy is nothing new, improvements in technology have helped boost biopower performance. Both climate change and the increasing demand for energy is expected to drive the growth in the biopower sector.

Biopower or biomass, can involve several different systems: direct-fired, cofiring, gasification, anaerobic digestion, pyrolysis, and small modular. reports that most of the biopower plants around the globe are using direct-fired systems that burn feedstock to produce steam. The steam is captured by a turbine and a generator then converted into electricity. Interest in the other systems is starting to grow.

Anaerobic digestion is an example of a system that is seems to be quickly gaining more attention. In 2015 there were 400 established AD plants operating just in the United Kingdom, an increase of 102 over the previous year. Some experts suggest another 500 plants could be up and running by 2020 in the UK.

Industry analysts suggest that the success of large-scale biopower plants depends on government support. They say financial incentives, such as subsidies and production tax credits have to be linked to the practice. Of course, strict regulations on emissions generated from fossil fuels can only help to push biopower forward.

A number of waste facilities across the world have set up their own systems to indirectly support biopower development.

GlobalData indicates that biopower plants are using wood or agricultural by-products for the most part, but scientists and engineers continue to discover new viable feedstock options. One of the largest biopower plants in the United States, United States Sugar Corporation, uses bagasse to produce electricity. Bagasse is a dry residue that remains once you extract juice from sugar cane.

The largest biomass plant in North America is located in Atikokan Ontario, which is about 200 kilometres west of Thunder Bay. Atikokan generating station burns 100 percent biomass using wood pellets, but was once a coal-fired power plant.