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A bioenergy system is characterized by the cultivation, production, gathering and transport of feedstock, and its conversion to yield an energy carrier which delivers an energy service to an end user. Examples of some of these energy services are heating, lighting, mechanical power or transport. The suitability of a particular system in a particular context depends on several aspects and no “best” technology route exists. The choice of route will vary with the type and volume of available (or sustainably feasible) feedstock, type of energy service(s) needed, investment possibilities and technological readiness of the region. As in nature, diversity will help mitigate economic and climate related risk, but comes with a trade off in terms of economies of scale due to constraints of limited investment capital.

Choice of feedstock

There are several different options of feedstock for a bioenergy system and choices have to be made in view of agro-ecological conditions and the broader natural resource baseline, local traditions, and the purpose of the project/programme. Feedstocks differ in their impacts on soil quality and water use, biodiversity and greenhouse gas balances, and the extent of these impacts varies with cropping cycles and management methods. Besides environmental impacts, social impacts also vary as some crops demand intense labour for manual planting and harvesting, while some crops are best harvested mechani-cally. Furthermore, competition with labour for other crops, in particular during land preparation and harvesting times, should be taken into account in the planning.

Bioenergy feedstocks can be divided into three main categories: waste/residues, dedicated energy crops, and biomass harvested from natural resources. The potential for these different types of feedstock vary significantly between areas and within areas, as do the production/ collection and conversion costs and the end products they can be used for. Each source has its specific advantages and disadvantages and the type of feedstock should be chosen in consideration of national objectives.

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