Different definitions and definitions for biomass. Broad, biomass may refer to the totality of all living things, including the dead material. In the context of renewable energy, all organic substances of plant or animal origin, which are used as energy sources, are referred to as biomass.

Definition for renewable energy policy of the European Union:

Biomass is the biodegradable part of products, waste and residues of agriculture with organic origin (including vegetal and animal substances), forestry and related industries including fisheries and aquaculture. According to this definition, the biodegradable part of industrial and municipal waste is one of the biomass.

Biomass is thus so among others.:

  • Plants and plant parts and the fuels made from plants or plant parts,
  • Waste and by-products (vegetal and animal origin) from agriculture, forestry and fishing industry and each downstream processing establishments,
  • Residual wood from premises of woodworking and processing and the wood based panel industry
  • Landscape care goods and Treibsel from waters, shore care and pollution - prevention,
  • Old wood and waste wood and
  • Bio-waste.

Not biogenic fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal, natural gas and peat are considered biomass, since they cannot regenerate in manageable periods and thus do not meet the criteria of renewability.

Biomass is stored solar energy - the biochemical fundamentals

Biomass is essentially produced by photosynthesis of plants. Using solar energy, biomass are formed from the carbon dioxide in the air, water and various nutrients, which can be divided into the following main groups:

  • Wood and straw material (lignin, Hemicellulose and cellulose)
  • Sugar, starch, and cellulose (carbohydrates)
  • Oils and fats
  • Proteins


Photosynthesis takes place, releasing oxygen. The biomass generated consists mainly of the elements carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Solar energy is thus stored as chemical energy, for example in the form of wood, sugar, oils and fats. The photosynthesis on the example of sugar is represented as a simplified formula often as follows:

6 CO2 + 6 H2O + light = C6H12O6 + 6 O2


Biomass energy used, the carbon cycle - is depending on the type of use - largely closed. So is the CO2balance clearly positive compared to fossil fuels, because the CO2 released for use again was taken at the growth of the plant from the atmosphere and bound. In the CO2balance to take into account the additional energy required for harvesting, transport, processing and conversion (in heat, power or fuel), however, is as far as it is not covered from renewable sources. For wood fuels like firewood, wood chips or wood pellets, this additional energy is very small and is below 5 per cent of the energy content of fuels.

Replacing fossil fuels such as coal, oil or natural gas by biogenic sources of energy, this makes an important contribution to preventing additional CO2emissions. Although nothing more than biomass is also at the origin of fossil raw materials, because they were formed from dead plants and animals in a process lasting millions of years. But the humanity consumes the worldwide oil, gas and coal reserves in relation to fires quickly, i.e. within a few centuries. The CO2balance of the use of fossil fuels is therefore not balanced, a reformation of fossil fuels today only in extremely low mass takes place. Plants can grow, however, - provided a sustainable use - also back to the same extent in which they are used.

Cascade use

CO2balance during wood combustion is further improved, when old oak, that previously many decades as timber or other wood products was used, only used in the wake of this material use as energy sources (so-called cascade use). This wood has first time2 CO removed from the atmosphere and stored and then Burns CO2- neutral. The difference to fossil fuels is that not all used recycled wood is burned at the same time in a short period of time, also grow new trees to the same extent in the time span of the material use of wood in the forest. By the way: Rotting wood in the forest, releases it the same amount of energy and CO2 as in the combustion, because the process of biodegradation is energetically quasi analogue.

Bioenergy - the versatile renewable energy

The raw material base for bio-energy is varied, the energy sources derived, the conversion process and the forms of final energy offer a wide variance: biomass is available in solid, liquid and gaseous form to generate heat, electricity generation and the production of bio-fuels available. With the various technologies and processes and in the various performance classes, energy can be generated from biomass. In the form of heat, such as stoves and pellet heating systems deliver bio-energy in private households. The steam generator with residual forest wood chips fired in industry and trade and bio-gas plants or wood heating plants to the local heat supply in villages and towns produce biogenic heat.

Bioenergy is produced by power generation old wood and industrial waste wood in biomass power plants and co-incineration of biomass pellets in coal-fired power plants. Bioenergy is biogas from agricultural biogas plants, depending on the treatment and conversion processes - at the system or via the distributed natural gas network - used versatile heating and current drive or as a fuel. The squeezed on farms and used as a fuel in tractors rapeseed oil is bio-energy, as well as bio-diesel and bio-ethanol, proportionally blended in diesel and petrol by the petroleum industry. And last but not least also the energy produced from bio-waste, sewage gas and landfill gas, bio-energy is attributed to.

The importance of bio-energy under the renewable energy end energy

With over 60 percent, biomass is the largest contributor to the final energy from renewable sources. It is used mainly for heating. 88 percent of the renewable heat comes from biomass, especially wood. While generating electricity are dominated by wind power, biomass fuel sector is currently the only regenerative source.

GHG avoidance through the use of renewable energy

Bio-energy is also an important contribution to climate protection. Because biomass emits back only the amount of carbon dioxide(CO2)in the atmosphere in the use, have taken from the plants from the atmosphere to grow. Through the use of renewable energies2emissions 2013 to about 148 million tonnes were reduced the CO, including some 64.5 million tonnes of (44%) through the use of biomass.

Development of renewable energies for the generation of heat

For the heat supply from renewable energy sources, biomass by far is the most important renewable energy sources. The share of bio-energy is the renewable heat 88%. It includes the heat supply of solid fuels (E.g. wood), liquid fuels (E.g. vegetable oil) and gaseous fuels (E.g. biogas from manure and energy crops, as well as sewage and landfill gas) the biogenic portion of the waste.

Electricity generation from renewable energy sources

2013, 23.9 percent of German gross electricity consumption came from renewable sources. Although the largest share comes from wind turbines, also the contribution of bioenergy is not negligible. 47.9 billion kWh was 2013 approximately 31 percent of the renewable electricity.

Biofuel consumption in Germany

In 2013, 3.4 million tons of biofuels were deposed in Germany. The most important biofuel in Germany, is followed with 1.8 million metric tons or 55% biodiesel bioethanol with 1.2 million tonnes (27%) and fuel made from hydrogenated vegetable oils with 440,000 tons (16%).

In 2008, the global primary energy consumption was 500 exajoules (EJ). 64 EJ supplied renewable energy, of which nearly 80 percent of renewable sources accounted for biomass with 50.4 EJ. The Scientific Advisory Board estimates the global, annual sustainable bio energy potential global change (WBGU) Federal Government on 80 to 170 EJ (from 30-120 EJ of energy plants and 50 EJ from waste and residues).

The potential of renewable energies are enormous and enough to meet the energy requirements of the world. The use of biomass, mostly as wooden, is today already often economically, their share is correspondingly large. To take into account aspects of the food supply and conservation, the sustainably exploitable potential of bio mass are subject to restrictions.

Bio mass potential of in Germany

The transition from fossil to renewable energy sources, biomass has a special value in Germany. The specialist agency renewable resources (FNR) comes within the framework of the assessment of a potential following results: 23 percent of our primary energy can be deployed in 2050 from domestic biomass processed! This assessment is based including the assumption that the primary energy demand in Germany 2008 is halved by the year 2050 compared to the reference year by around 14,000 PJ on 7,000 PJ (source: energy scenarios for an energy concept of the Federal Government in 2010). The reasons for including in the demographic and technological development. About 2,200 of the total 7,000 PJ could then deliver biomass, of which could produce around 1,640 PJ (or about 23 percent of the total primary energy demand) from local sources. Energy crops from the field, energy wood from the forest, would supply the required energy coupling products and biogenic residual materials. The remaining nearly 600 PJ biomass should be covered by biomass imports.

FNR-potential assessment

Power plants represent the largest indigenous biomass potential. Taking into account nature conservation restrictions can energy crops in the year 2050 up to 4 million hectares of arable land (2014: just under 2.1 million hectares) are grown. Assuming a biomass yield from 10 tons per hectare (calculated as dry matter, water content 0%) and a value of 18.5 GJ per tonne of 185 GJ settled on one hectare to 4 million hectares 740 PJ generate. The different residues, coupling products and energy wood from the forest are are expected to contribute in the year 2050 with 900 PJ primary energy consumption.
Local bio-energy: what can they afford 2050?

The FNR assessment of potential is based the assumption that does not significantly change the shares of food and feed imports and exports and today's food self-sufficiency remains constant. In addition it is expected that prevails in the so-called cascade use, renewable raw materials are used at the end of their life cycle so first recycled and only for energy production.

The biomass groups named in the graphics are made up as follows:

Power plants:
Maize, rape, cereals, grasses and new energy crops and agricultural wooden (fast-growing tree species) for bio-gas, bio-fuels and fuels

Agricultural coupling products and residues:
Straw and other crop residues, manure and manure, landscaping material, etc.

Energy wood from the forest:
Thinning wood, weak wood, Crown rests etc.

Other biogenic residual materials:
Industrial waste wood, waste wood, sludge, organic waste from households, trade and industry, landfill and sewage gas, etc.

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