Biomass power generation installed capacity to touch 82 GW by 2020: Navigant Research

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Greentech Lead America: Global installed biomass power generation (biopower) capacity will grow gradually over the remainder of this decade, from 58.6 gigawatts (GW) in 2013 to 82 GW in 2020, under a conservative forecast scenario according to Navigant Research.

Biomass power generation capacity currently accounts for 3 percent of global electricity generation capacity. Biopower is widely utilized by industrial facilities and distributed energy customers alike.

Offering dispatchable, baseload support to the grid with high load reliability, biopower will continue to play a cornerstone role in meeting renewable energy targets, the report said. Biopower projects, however, remain dependent upon subsidies in most jurisdictions.

Accelerated future growth depends on breakthroughs in densification processes and the commoditization of biomass resources for power production.

Under a more aggressive scenario, installed capacity could reach 128.5 GW in 2020, the study concludes.

The aggressive forecast scenario assumes an accelerated rate of biopower installations across all regions, driven by factors including expanding trade flows in densified biomass, a surge in biomass integration across coal-burning power plants, and faster rates of integrated biorefinery infrastructure expansion, as well as other industrial cogeneration opportunities.

While biomass feedstocks are available worldwide, the logistical challenges associated with its collection, aggregation, transportation, and handling, coupled with its poor energy density relative to fossil fuels, make the commercial generation of electricity from biomass viable in only a narrow set of circumstances, according to Mackinnon Lawrence, principal research analyst with Navigant Research.

“The global biopower market currently faces a number of conflicting signals, and the use of biomass as a source of commercial power – despite incorporating proven technologies – still entails financing risk, limiting its expansion in comparison to other renewables,” Lawrence added.

Although the future of dedicated biopower facilities remains uncertain, biopower can also optimize existing industrial processes. Increasingly, the utilization of biomass is improving the efficiency and profitability of facilities as a fuel for combined heat and power installations, reducing coal emissions through co-firing, and providing onsite generation for industrial facilities like biorefineries.

According to the report, the growth outlook for these applications remains positive.

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