Deep in the gently rolling Mendip Hills of Somerset, in the southwest of England, nestles a dairy farm with 150 years of cheese making heritage. It lies only a few miles from the site of the world famous Glastonbury rock festival but the cows clearly dig the music, because they not only produce enough milk for some 14,000 metric tonnes of top quality cheese a year - they also power the farm.
Successful microalgae-to-biodiesel conversion has been the goal of some renewable energy researchers for more than two decades. But after years of research on how to best grow these Carbon Dioxide (CO2)-loving plants in open ponds, a commercially viable solution has remained elusive.
Finland is, above all, a land of abundant, and growing, forests. "We produce 100 cubic meters of wood per year, while 50 cubic meters per year is harvested. We have more forest than we can use," said Jukka Leskelä, director of power generation for trade body Energiateollisuus, or Finnish Energy Industries. So it's no surprise that, given an almost complete lack of indigenous fossil fuel resources, high per-capita energy consumption, and a long-running forest management program already in place, Finland is investing in biomass and biofuels in a big way as it looks to define its future energy mix.
Don Draper and fellow “Mad Men” would likely be horrified, but alcohol and tobacco — long joined at the hip by chain smokers and heavy drinkers — are countering the U.S.’ current aversion to excess by rebranding themselves as new sources of bioenergy.
Emerging markets have tremendous biomass resources. Such fuels also enjoy commercial advantages due to grid and baseload power availability and a strong willingness from users to pay for electricity. Yet to become a corporate sector, biomass power has avenues to explore to take it away from being made up of mostly isolated one-off projects, captive-generation schemes or public policy/NGO projects. Biomass power needs to focus on the vertical logistics of the fuel business. Indeed, conventional fuel price rises and demand-side pressures from north Asia point to the adoption of such a logistics chain.
Driven by aggressive biofuel mandates, rapid industry growth will cause great strain on biomass by 2030, according to analysis firm Lux Research. A report from the firm says that, using today's technologies, an area the size of Russia would need to be cultivated to replace all petroleum used for chemicals and fuels, and feedstock innovation will be needed to keep growing biomass's market share.