Biomass is any plant or animal matter used to produce energy. Many plants and plant-derived materials can be used for energy production; the most common is wood. Other sources include food crops, grasses, agricultural residues, manure and methane from landfills.
As an agricultural state, Texas has many resources for biomass energy production. Crops used to produce biomass energy – cotton, corn and some soybeans – are all grown in Texas. Texas has 21 landfill gas energy projects and the potential to develop more. Forests in East Texas also provide fuel for energy production. And Texas has significant quantities of manure (feedlot biomass), especially in the High Plains area where there are numerous feedlots.
While cattle manure has the most potential for power use, other forms of agricultural waste have significant possibilities, too. These include poultry litter, rice straw, peanut shells, cotton gin trash and corn stover. In fact, a recent report from the Houston Advanced Research Center estimated that Texas agricultural wastes have the potential to produce 418.9 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power over 250,000 homes, based on average Texas electric use in 2006.
In the U.S., the primary biomass fuels are wood, biofuels and various waste products. Biofuels include alcohols, synfuels and biodiesel, a fuel made from grain and animal fats. Waste consists of municipal solid waste, landfill gas, agricultural byproducts and other material. Most biomass energy used in the U.S. – 65 percent – comes from wood. Another 23 percent of biomass energy used comes from biofuels while the remaining 12 percent comes from waste energy.
Energy generated from biomass is the nation’s largest source of renewable energy, accounting for 48 percent of the total in 2006. The U.S. consumed 3,277 trillion British thermal units (Btu) of biomass energy in 2006. The next largest source of renewable energy is hydroelectric power, with 2,889 trillion Btu consumed in 2006.