Biomass - usage

SFV recommends to use biogenic wastes and residues energetically. However, we advise not to use other biomass that could also be used materially.
(Note: This explicit warning is reinforced by the calculator by flashing a warning light. Nevertheless, the Energy Transition Calculator uses the provided values for the calculation as the user is responsible for getting a meaningful result by choosing sensible parameters.)

Short Rationale:
Biomass is indeed a suitable material for replacing the diminishing availability of oil on a small scale. However, this energetic use of biomass does not provide a substantial advantage when it comes to climate protection.
Energetically used biomass will emit at least as much CO2 into the atmosphere as fossil fuels. One advantage is that this CO2 does not come from fossil deposits but was taken from the atmosphere shortly before. This advantage is, however, wholly or partially nullified by several serious drawbacks:
1) Accelerated return of the carbon into the atmosphere whereas otherwise, it would still be stored in the plants.
2) Reduction of photosynthetic capacity and thus the storage of CO2 in plants, because they are - instead of growing - used energetically.
3) Competition of biomass for energy with production of food
4) Competition between the energetic use of biomass and its material use for organic chemistry (in renouncing oil, gas and coal)

As to 1 and 2) Dangers to photosynthesis and storage of carbon
Energetic use of biomass increases the economic pressure to convert forests to biomass plantations. This has dangerous consequences for the climate: in leafy greens a permanent transformation of CO2 into oxygen (photosynthesis) is taking place. This process is indispensable in the fight against the excessive CO2 in the atmosphere. By photosynthesis, a significant proportion of carbon is removed from the atmosphere and safely stored mainly in wood and the roots of forests. The SFV therefore decides on the priority of the woods.

As to 3) Scarcity of food as a result of climate change
Climate change is not only uniform warming, but is especially noticeable with extreme events. Unforeseen change from drought and floods, the irregularity of the monsoon rains, devastating storms, shifting of the seasons and periods of frost and overheating worldwide overwhelm the adaptability of the vegetation and promote the spread of deserts. The first episodes will hit the agricultural sector. Increasing crop failure is expected. This leads to predictable global shortage of food and famine. This situation raises the urgent question of whether one wants to fill the tank or the plate". The SFV opts for the primacy of food.

As to 4) Predictable shortage of raw materials for organic chemistry by renouncing oil, gas and coal
Who sets the goal to become independent of oil, gas and coal also needs a replacement for their material use. This replacement can - at least to a certain extent - be supplied by biomass.

15 percent of German oil imports are used materially - for manufacturing plastics, carbon fibers, textiles, lubricants, pesticides and fertilizers, construction materials, medicines, etc. (Source: Association of Chemical Industry, raw materials of chemical industry: facts and figures). Also part of the coal and natural gas production is used materially.
(15% of the total German oil demand (109 million tons) = 16.35 million tons of crude oil = approximately 19 billion liters of petroleum)

If we were to replace the required quantity of oil (about 19 billion liters) by rapeseed oil, then one needs a large area.

Rough calculation:
Rape has (in conventional farming) a yield of approximately 130,000 liters of rapeseed oil per km².
If we want to replace 19 billion liters of crude oil by rapeseed oil (130,000 liters of rapeseed oil / km ²) an area of approximately 146,000 sq. km is needed. The available arable land in Germany is about 169,000 sq. kilometers.

The result is: The German demand for materially used oil products can be replaced by renewable resources. This however implies that one uses almost the entire German agricultural land for growing rape (which is agriculturally not possible on a permanent basis). The material use of other fossil fuels like natural gas and coal has not even been included in this calculation.

The environmentally sensible cultivation of oil crops such as Camelina (in mixed cultivation with food - see http://www.sfv.de/ppt/Biomasse_Kurzvortragppt.ppt does not solve this problem. Growing camelina achieves only about 1 / 10 of the oil yield compared to oilseed rape (see: http://www.sfv.de/artikel/2007/Potentia.htm ).

Conclusion:
The SFV warns against considering biomass suitable for energy use. Our future energy supply can entirely be based on a system of renewable energies combined with storing energy that does not have these disadvantages. Therefore the SFV recommends that biomass should only be used energetically if it cannot be stored or processed (like waste such as manure, household organic waste and waste from the food industry).

Other opinions:
Lead Scenario 2009 (Summary) - Study commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment.

Source: http://www.dlr.de/Portaldata/1/Resources//BMU_Leitszenario2009_kurzfassung.pdf , there page 9:
Quote: (...) By 2050, the increase of electricity from biomass is still low at only a total of 57 TWh / a. By then, energy crops are used over an area of 1.85 million ha for stationary power and heat generation, which represents nearly 10% of the total area of arable and permanent pasture. (...) (...) End of quote

The SFV strongly warns against this strategy. The required agricultural land is missing for growing food crops. Also, it can not be used for afforestation of forest, i.e. for the retrieval of CO2 from the atmosphere.

If one were to use the same land for wind farms, one would gain the 10 - to 30-fold in energy. In addition, we could continue to pursue agriculture or forestry under the wind turbines (with only very minor restrictions).
Biomass yield compared

Video - Under wind turbines farming is possible (Source: E. Waffenschmidt):



Percentage of electricity generation, taking into account the efficiency of electricity generation
The percentage of electricity generated with biomass (of total energy production from biomass) can be set here.

Similarly, the efficiency of generating electricity from biomass can be set here.


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