Biomass Heating System and Biochar

Tom Miles

Biomass Heating System and Biochar
Burt's Greenhouse , Kingston, Ontario, Canada

"Since 2005 Burt's Greenhouses have been heating their greenhouses with Biomass. What is Biomass? In our case it is wood. We burn waste wood (wood collected from construction, furniture manufactures, skids, etc. It this wood were not used in this way it would likely be land-filled.

What is the environmental advantage of this? Typically heat is derived from fossil fuels. In our case it was furnace oil. Fossil fuel represents a large store of carbon that is inert until it is released via combustion. The combustion of Biomass or Fossil fuel emits Carbon Dioxide gas. Carbon Dioxide is known to contribute to global warming. It is commonly called a greenhouse gas since its presence in the atmosphere mimics that of the covering on a greenhouse by trapping some of the heat that enters the earths atmosphere.

Why is the Carbon Dioxide emitted from Biomass different from that emitted from Fossil Fuels. In the atmosphere there is no difference but the difference lies in the fact that Biomass is renewable. The wood that we derive our fuel from has captured CO2 from the atmosphere over its lifetime. We do release that C02 to the atmosphere but currently growing Biomass is able to capture it. We can then burn that Biomass to produce heat thus creating a closed cycle. This is why Biomass is considered a renewable energy source.

Of course it does take some fossil fuel to drive this process since the wood must be ground and trucked however it is still a fraction of the energy that we derive from the wood. Our net C02 emissions are dramatically reduced but still positive.

What is next for us? Hopefully two things. We would like to be growing our own Biomass likely in the form of warm season grasses like switchgrass or miscanthus. That would mean we could become almost energy self-sufficient. We also would like to be producing what is called Biochar."