When electricity is created by burning organic matter or the gas that is released from decomposing organic matter, it is called biomass.

Humans have used biomass since we began building fires to cook and stay warm, but it has evolved quite a bit since then.

Many sources of low-emissions, non-toxic biomass can be supported by the Blue Sky program, including:

  • Solid organic fuels from wood, forest and field residues (e.g. saw dust from lumber mills)
  • Dedicated energy crops available on a renewable basis
  • Methane gas captured at landfills or from animal waste (e.g. dairy cow manure)

Some types of biomass do not qualify for support from Blue Sky customers because of their potential impact on the environment and human health, such as wood that has been coated with paints, plastics, preservatives or formica.

Why is biomass considered renewable energy?

Electricity generated from biomass resources used in the Blue Sky program is considered renewable energy because it relies on available waste products (wood waste, methane from decomposing garbage or cow manure) to create energy. Better yet, if this waste were allowed to decompose naturally, it would do more harm than good because decomposing waste releases methane – a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

What are the benefits of biomass energy?

This energy source is associated with little to no direct greenhouse gas emissions and can help mitigate climate change, promote forest health, reduce water pollution and minimize stress on landfills. Biomass is a net zero carbon dioxide energy source.

Biomass is the nation’s largest source of renewable energy – and in many regions it’s available when and where other sources of renewable energy are not.  For instance, even if your home town doesn’t have much wind, the chances are, there is a landfill somewhere nearby. In the Northwest, generating biomass energy from local resources stimulates local industries and helps manage organic wastes. For example, supporting facilities that generate biomass energy from wood waste promotes local forest health and reduces wild fire risk by clearing woody residues. In addition, it supports the local timber and paper industries by providing revenue for their waste streams.

For more information about biomass energy sources, please visit the US Department of Energy’s Biomass Energy Basics.