FAQ: Wood biomass to energy basics

What is biomass?

Biomass is any organic biological material, derived from living organisms, that stores energy from the sun.

Enviva produces wood biomass fuel in the form of wood pellets and wood chips.

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Who are your customers, and why do they use biomass fuel?

Today, our customers are mostly European power producers seeking to decrease their dependence on traditional fossil fuels, such as coal, and reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. European nations have adopted aggressive, mandatory renewable energy targets for 2020.[1] Several countries, including the UK, have put additional regulations in place that are designed to phase out many coal plants altogether. Since existing coal-fired infrastructure can be converted to use wood biomass instead, Enviva provides a reliable, cost-effective, and environmentally beneficial means of meeting these objectives.

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Is burning trees for electricity inefficient because of the moisture in the wood?

During the manufacturing process for wood pellets, moisture content is reduced from approximately 50% to approximately 6%, making the pellets more economical to ship and more efficient to burn.

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Are there other feasible, cost-effective alternatives available that could facilitate the transition away from coal?

Biomass is one of the most cost-effective forms of renewable energy, second only to on-shore wind. However, biomass is distinct from other forms of renewable energy because it provides reliable, base load power that is available when needed, not only when the wind blows or the sun shines. This enables reliable operation under all conditions and guarantees that the lights will stay on.

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Does wood biomass cost more than other renewables? Does it cost more than coal?

Biomass is one of the most cost-effective renewable energy resources. The cost of biomass power generation in Europe is less than the cost of offshore wind, solar thermal, and solar PV. In addition to the low generation costs, biomass also has low “grid level” costs. These are the costs incurred by energy transmission companies to cope with the intermittent nature of other renewable resources.

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