Bioenergy Basics

The term bioenergy, or biomass, refers to all the Earth's vegetation and many products and co-products that come from it. Biomass is the oldest known source of renewable energy—humans have been using it since we discovered fire—and it has high energy content. The energy content of dry biomass ranges from 7,000 Btus/lb for straws to 8,500 Btus/lb for wood.  For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says that dry sunflower straw has an energy content of about 6794 Btus/lb and dry softwood bark has an energy content of 8256 Btus/lb (using a conversion of 1 MJ/kg = 430 Btus/lb). Domestic biomass resources include agricultural and forestry wastes, municipal solid wastes, industrial wastes, and terrestrial and aquatic crops grown solely for energy purposes, known as energy crops.

Biomass is an attractive energy source for a number of reasons. First, it is a renewable energy source as long as we manage vegetation appropriately. Biomass is also more evenly distributed over the earth's surface than finite energy sources, and may be exploited using less capital-intensive technologies. It provides the opportunity for local, regional, and national energy self-sufficiency across the globe. And energy derived from biomass does not have the negative environmental impact associated with non-renewable energy sources. To learn more about biomass and bioenergy, visit the Department of Energy's National Biofuels Program website.

(Source: U.S. Department of Energy)

  • NREL BioEnergy Atlas

    Built into Google Maps, BioEnergy Atlas includes two interactive maps, BioPower and BioFuels. These maps allow you to compare and analyze biomass feedstocks, biopower and biofuels data from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Learn more>>

  • Bioenergy KDF

    Similar to the BioEnergy Atlas, this tool supported by the Department of Energy incorporates data shared by government and the bioenergy industry.  The KDF examines the economic and environmental impacts of development options for biomass feedstock production, biorefineries, and related infrastructure. Learn more>>

  • Arkansas Biomass Resource Assessment

    biomassResource_map.jpgThis study, funded by the Department of Energy, found that an estimated 19.8 billion kWh of electricity could be generated using renewable biomass fuels in Arkansas. This is enough electricity to supply the annual needs of 1,979,000 average homes, or 150 percent of the residential electricity use in Arkansas.

    To download the study >>

  • Regional Strategy for Biobased Products in the Mississippi Delta

    A key group of regional leadership organizations has established a comprehensive strategic plan for growing the bioeconomy in 98 counties located along the Mississippi River in Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

    To download the study >>