Bioenergy information library

With its various application areas (electricity, heat, fuels), biomass is not only the oldest, but also one of the most versatile energy sources among the renewable energies. It also supplies raw materials for the chemical industry and thus makes a significant contribution to integrated material use in a bio-based economy.

With its broad range of already established as well as researched technical methods for energy generation, it represents an essential building block in the development of a sustainable energy future. In addition to challenges related to sustainable biomass supply, the future will be much more about using biomass in fields where other renewable alternatives are not available or only available to a limited extent. Such an integration of bioenergy into existing and future energy systems requires a comprehensive technological further development of the energetic use of biomass, both in the electricity as well as in the heat and fuel sector.

The Smart Bioenergy Concept of the DBFZ

The "Smart Bioenergy" concept developed by the DBFZ describes the transition from today's continuously operated bioenergy plants to flexible systems, which are always used when there is no sunshine and no wind blowing. The prerequisite for this is the information technology supported, i.e. "smart" embedding in the energy system. In the future, the focus must be shifted from the individual plant to its systemic embedding. The research for the Smart Bioenergy concept is research with a system view. An optimised use of residual materials and waste as well as the recycling of new residual material streams from biomass processing processes, e.g. in the chemical industry, and the closing of nutrient cycles open up additional value creation potential for intelligently integrated bioenergy processes. Read more

Flyer "Smart Bioenergy - Innovations for a sustainable future
Flyer "Smart Bioenergy - Innovations for a sustainable future

The integration of biomass into the existing energy system poses many challenges. "Smart Bioenergy" stands for the sustainable use of biomass as a building block of decentralised energy supply systems on the way to a bio-based economy.

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Bioenergy explained in simple terms

Biomass is organic matter of plant or animal origin. This includes plants such as maize, rape, wild plants or wood, biowaste and other organic residues such as liquid manure, dry chicken faeces or agricultural by-products such as straw and other agricultural residues.

Biomass can be used to produce energy sources in solid, liquid and gaseous form. Typical for solid bioenergy are wood fuels such as wood chips or wood pellets. Liquid bioenergy sources include biofuels such as vegetable oil, biodiesel or bioethanol. Gaseous energy sources of biogenic origin are e.g. biogas or biomethane. These bioenergy sources can then be converted into energy by combustion to meet the demand for e.g. heat, electricity and/or mobility.

Biomass can be used to generate energy in very different ways. The option used in each case depends, among other things, on the properties of the raw material. Woodlike biomass, for example, is well suited for combustion and thus for heat generation. Biogas, which can generally be used like natural gas, can be produced from biomass with a high water content (e.g. liquid manure) by anaerobic fermentation. Sugar and starchy biomass (such as sugar beet or cereals) can be fermented to alcohol, which can then be used as fuel. Oil-containing plants supply vegetable oil, which is suitable as a diesel substitute.

Biomass can be used to produce a large number of material products for a bio-based economy. Depending on the course of the conversion process, these can be liquid substances, e.g. process water for the chemical industry, or solid products such as activated carbon. The fibrous residues of substrates from biogas production can also be used as material, e.g. as composite material in wood panels. 

Renewable raw materials contribute to sustainable energy production by, among other things, making energy supply more secure because they can be used in an environmentally and climate-friendly way. The significant contribution of bioenergy to climate protection is due to the CO2 neutrality of biomass. When biomass is burned, just as much CO2 is released as a sustainably produced plant has absorbed during growth - provided there are no indirect land-use changes. If fossil energy is thus replaced by biomass, a noticeable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved. In addition, the energetic use of biomass opens up additional opportunities for sustainable development, for example through the development of rural areas. However, the expansion of bioenergy can also be associated with risks, such as undesirable environmental effects or competing uses for food production.