While biomass generally refers to any organic material, like algae or animal waste, which can be used to produce energy, South Carolina’s most abundant biomass resource is its 12 million acres of forestland. The burning of trees to generate electricity represents a tremendous opportunity to ween ourselves off of imported fuels, but it also presents challenges associated with sustainability.
Large biomass facilities can put intense pressure on local woodsheds. Without sustainable forestland management, communities surrounding such facilities run the risk of losing diverse forest stands, vital wildlife habitats and generally healthy ecosystems.
However, with the adoption of certain safeguards, our biomass resources could play an important role in making South Carolina energy-independent. Measures to prevent negative land use change, such as the transformation of natural forests to single-species plantations, provide an important check against potentially destructive forces.
Additionally, small-scale biomass facilities could be widely dispersed across the state to ensure the availability of adequate waste wood supplies, which include wood diverted from landfills as well as limbs and treetops which loggers leave on-site after timber operations.
Biomass facilities can also be designed to meet high efficiency standards to make sure we get the most energy out of the woody materials consumed. Highly-efficient combined heat & power systems not only generate electricity, but they also trap waste heat, and then use it in industrial processes or to heat local buildings like schools, hospitals and factories.
Additional biomass information: