Using biomass (wood) for power is a centuries old technology – it is based on the use of a boiler to burn the wood and make high pressure steam to turn large electricity turbines.
Biomass power is attractive because of its proven and simple technology, cost competitiveness and ability to supply the energy needs of major industries, households and rural communities. The use of Biomass Power Plants around the world is increasing rapidly as the costs of fossil fuels go up and the need for renewable energy and greater positive environmental impacts are increasing.
Biomass plants have increased in popularity globally as both stand-alone power generation and as cogeneration facilities with other agricultural processing plants and coal. Biomass plants can use dedicated feedstock as well as crop residue and waste to generate power. This can which result in additional revenue for the agricultural industry such as palm oil, forestry and sugar.
Global Biomass Electricity Capacity is around 62 GW, which is around 200 times the size of all the grid connected generation in PNG. Shell (2014) forecast that Biomass will provide over 15% of the world’s energy needs by 2050, most PNG people are familiar with the use of biomass (wood) to generate heat for cooking.
Biomass is widely used in the Pacific region. Thailand has an installed biomass capacity of over 700 MW of which 240 MW which is connected to the utility grid. Malaysia is estimated to have over 500 MW of installed biomass power and Australia has 450 MW installed capacity of biomass generation of 10 MW or greater.
Biomass plants are generally less than 100 MW but large-scale plants are now being built in Europe where they have secured long term supply contracts for biomass feedstock.
Biomass Power Plants are ideal for PNG because they can support power generation from 5 – 50 MW at a price that is lower than diesel and Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) and which is complementary to the cost and time to deploy hydro and gas power solutions of the same size. The key to success for Biomass power (and for any power) is having a secure fuel supply and PNG’s sustainable plantations can provide this in abundance.
The following are examples of biomass power plants around the word that use basic technology and at various scales.