Solid Biomass Supply for Heat and Power: Technology Brief

January 2019
ISBN : 978-92-9260-107-2

Solid biomass from forests, farms and cities provides a major energy source for heat and power generation, potentially accounting for a fifth of global energy consumption by 2050 amid accelerated adoption of renewables. But wood and crop residues need to be collected from widely dispersed sites and stored for use at the optimal time, and at a cost-effective scale, in district-heating systems, power plants, and combined heat and power plants.

This technology brief from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) examines the multi-dimensional logistical challenges of establishing a steady supply chain for solid biomass.

In many places around the globe, in fact, the challenge has been met. Wood pellets for power generation, for example, with high energy density, low moisture content and sufficient durability, are shipped by sea from Southeast Asia to Japan and from Southwestern Europe to the Netherlands. Straw and food-crop residues are collected to provide village-level heat and power in India. In both cases, an effective supply chain depends of contracts to ensure feedstock at the required quality and cost.

Yet larger quantities of residues remain uncollected, whether from farms around the world or in developed countries with large-scale logging operations in managed forests.

In an increasingly globalised energy and commodity market, the standardisation of biomass feedstocks could serve as the key enabler for solid biomass trade. Feedstock pre-treatment, including drying and densification, helps to meet quality standards.

Successive technology briefs have highlighted a wide range of renewable energy solutions. Each brief outlines technical aspects, costs, market potential and barriers, combined with insights for policy makers on how to accelerate the transition to renewables.