Bioenergy for Electricity Generation
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Energy from biological materials addresses a number of key energy and environmental issues, including climate change, energy security, and replacement of carbon-intensive energy sources. This thesis assesses the feasibility of using three types of biological material for U.S. electricity generation: wood chips, biofuels, and organic waste. To evaluate economic feasibility, this paper examines system design, feedstock availability, and other advantages and disadvantages of alternative biological feedstocks. It also discusses three cost-benefit studies evaluating wood chips, biofuels, and waste-to-energy. This thesis recommends that the U.S. electricity sector consider investing in additional use of wood chips and organic waste and continue developing research for next-generation biofuel. Wood chips can cost less than heating oil. Municipal solid waste as a fuel could manage and reduce carbon. Although next-generation biofuels are more expensive in terms of capital and operating costs than conventional biofuel and fossil fuels, their use could mitigate food security and environmental concerns. All three technologies are used globally, proving technical feasibility. The availability of wood and waste in the U.S. offers another incentive for feedstock. Additional funding and research remain challenges for next-generation biofuel. Future research in bioenergy could include cost-benefit and carbon emission analyses that incorporate additional production pathways, comparisons to current renewable feedstocks, and recommended sites for the three technologies this paper addresses.