Biomass has been used as a source of energy right since mankind started its existence; In fact, one of the predominant energy sources today is biomass. Biomass as a source for power production is not entirely new either. Biomass has been used, in the place of coal, for steam generation at power plants, though in a limited way. Indeed, currently, the predominant method used for producing power using biomass still is the combustion route, At the same time, other processes, such as biomass gasification, which can work at much smaller scales and use the biomass more efficiently are emerging.
The newer processes especially biomass gasification based power production, is relevant today especially in the Indian context mainly because of its potential to provide distributed power at rural level, especially for small remote villages that have good access to biomass but no access to grid power, and which require only small scale power production. Biomass based power is also relevant in the context of climate change and global warming as biomass based power production is net carbon neutral.
The contribution of bioenergy to the total primary energy consumption in India is over 27% (Source: FAO). This is indeed the case for many other countries, because biomass is used in a significant way in rural areas in many countries. However, the contribution of biomass to power production is much smaller than this percentage – currently, biomass comprises only about 2650 MW of installed capacity, out of a total of 172000 MW of total electricity installed capacity in the country.
Besides, biomass power has the following benefits- distributed generation, baseload power, ability to have small, kW scale power production, suited for rural areas and ideal for rural economic upliftment. I believe these are enough to justify why biomass is best suited for power production.