The untapped biomass potential
In the current discussions on measures to combat climate change, the potential of biogenic residual and waste materials for energy generation and the production of biofuels is hardly mentioned. Yet this potential, if implemented in a technically efficient manner, is the guarantor for the further expansion of volatile forms of power generation such as wind power and solar energy, which can ensure a CO2-neutral but not a secure power supply. To maintain grid stability, climate-damaging fossil-fuel power plants are needed as backup . Thus, the actually very high climate protection effect of these forms of power generation can only be used to a limited extent. Here, regionally accruing biogenic residual and waste materials can be used as stored solar energy for CO2-neutral stabilization of the power grids. This biogenic resource potential is listed below. The figures used were mainly taken from publications of the FNR- Fachverband nachwachsender Rohstoffe (Association of Renewable Resources) as well as the Fraunhofer Institute, without showing them individually.
Biomass - sustainable utilization potential
Biogenic residual and waste materials
The technically usable but not utilized biomass potential amounts to 30.9 million t/a as dry matter. This corresponds to an energy quantity of 124,000 GWh or a net power plant capacity of 14.2 GW.
Grain straw and husks
With a theoretical potential of about 26 million t, the technically usable potential for cereal straw is about 13 million t/a . The technical potential can be increased by approx. 8 million t to 21 million t/a without any special effort.
The annual amount of husks produced during grain harvesting is estimated by experts to be 15 million t/a . At a technical utilization rate of 80%, this results in 12 million t/a.
Corn cobs and other plant parts as harvest residue with an appreciable quantity of probably 5 million t/a.
Yield increase of energy crop production.
Energy and feedstock crop production can be expected to increase yields between 260 and 500 PJ by 2050. The FNR text states that "The bioenergy potential of 740 PJ according to current yield levels .....realistic...". 740 PJ corresponds to 206,000 GWh, which means a net power plant capacity of 23.5 GW.
Synergy effects between agriculture and nature conservation
According to the FNR publication, the synergy effect between agriculture and nature conservation through the use of compensation areas amounts to between 50 and 110 PJ of additional biomass - An additional potential in the fight against climate change. For this consideration, the average value of 80 PJ is taken. This corresponds to an energy of 22,000 GWH, which in turn corresponds to a net power plant capacity of 2.4 GW.
Utilization of previously unused areas
A range of 50 to 70 PJ of additional biomass potential is estimated for the area of special sites that can be used in the future. A mean value of 60 PJ corresponds to 17,000 GWh of energy, which in turn corresponds to a power plant net capacity of 1.7 GW.
Already today, there is a potential of 1.6 million tons of roadside greenery, roadside wood, and railside wood. Intensive planting can significantly increase this potential in the medium and long term. A value of 2,400,000 t atro is used in this analysis. This corresponds to an energy potential of 13,300 GWh, which in turn corresponds to a net power plant capacity of 1.5 GW.
Energy wood plantations - basis FNR publication "Energy wood from agriculture" and NABU publication "Energy wood production in agriculture".
In Brandenburg, 200,000 ha of land are already used for energy wood production, which is 6.7% of the state's area of 29,654 km². From this area, 10,000 kg (atro) per ha of energy wood is harvested. Transferred to the total area of Germany of 357,578 km², 5% land use for energy wood production results in an energy potential of 100,000 GWh. This corresponds to a net power plant capacity of 11.4 GW.
Further potential can be seen in the site-adapted cultivation of energy crops as well as in the targeted cultivation of crops for industry and energy. However, this potential is not quantified further.
Summary of the biomass potential in Germany
The addition of the above mentioned quantities results in an unused annual biomass potential of 576 TWh. This corresponds to an installed electrical power plant capacity of 66 GWel. These figures apply to the full utilization of biomass for power generation.
As a comparison: In 2019, electricity generation in power plants using fossil fuels and nuclear energy amounted to approximately 280 TWh. This corresponds to a utilized power plant capacity of about 32 GW. Total electricity generation at the same time was 520 TWh.
Usability of the potential
Currently, a part of the listed biomasses is classically burned or converted into biogas in biogas plants. A reasonable storage of the generated energy products is not possible.
The suitable technology for a reasonable use of all listed potentials is already available with the KSW-Process®. The multitude of usable sources and the quantity fluctuations of some masses over the seasons are taken into account in corresponding logistic concepts.
This potential can be used for the sole generation of electricity. However, the KSW Process® also enables climate-friendly quadruple use in variable proportions: Electricity, heating/cooling and biofuels.
The sources for the figures are mainly publications of the FNR Fachverband nachwachsender Rohrstoffe. The figures clearly show the importance that the intensive use of biomass potential can have in the fight against climate change. It is thus a challenge to develop this potential and to use it in a technically sensible way.