Bamboo as a Renewable Energy Source

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Bamboo Could be the Next Source of Renewable Energy


With climate change being a persistent problem, people worldwide are looking into utilizing renewable energy to decrease their carbon footprint. Companies have taken sustainability pledges to lessen their environmental impact and overall carbon emissions. While solar energy is always a popular choice for a renewable energy source, a new option could be bamboo as fuel.

Bamboo is considered an excellent renewable resource and has many associated benefits. In Hong Kong, bamboo is still the preferred material for scaffolding due to its high tensile strength, lightweightness and ability to be taken apart faster than steel. Here is why bamboo should be utilized as a renewable energy source.

Why Bamboo as Fuel is an Excellent Candidate for Renewable Energy?

One of the many reasons why bamboo would make an excellent renewable energy source is how fast it grows. In fact, according to Guinness World Records, bamboo is the fastest-growing plant in the world and no other plant can grow at the same rate. Some bamboo species can even grow as much as 35 inches a day.

Most trees take between 20 to 30 years or longer to mature. On the other hand, bamboo can be harvested between two to three years, depending on the species. Bamboo is actually part of the grass family, which may be the reason why it grows so fast.

In a recent study published in GCB Bioenergy, researchers tested bamboo to see how it can be used as biopower and biofuel. The study states its composition consists of 70% lignocellulose — the primary material used to create biofuels. The researchers also mention the percentage of lignocellulose does not significantly differ across species.

The study mainly focused on biochar and bioethanol — two of the four energy forms bamboo as fuel can convert into. It also stated bamboo is a great candidate for bioethanol production due to its large amounts of lignocellulose content.

How Scientists Harness Bamboo Energy

As mentioned above, bamboo can convert into four energy forms — bioethanol, biochar, bio-oil, and biogas. With the rise of a technological era and the constant rate at which technology evolves, the techniques for extracting energy from bamboo have significantly increased. These methods include fermentation, anaerobic digestion, hydrothermal liquidation, and pyrolysis.

Different bamboo species can play a critical role in producing biofuel and biopower. Efficient energy production is achieved by adequately pairing bamboo species with varying extraction techniques. For this reason, using an evaluation system for different bamboo species will maximize the benefits. Scientists will be able to use the appropriate method for bioenergy production based on the type of bamboo selected.

Bamboo is treated with chemicals in bioethanol production before hydrolysis and fermentation occur. These pretreatments are necessary for extracting energy due to the high amount of lignocellulose and the natural resistance of bamboo.

Areas Bamboo Energy Could be Utilized

Old-style coal chambers from the past have started to make a comeback. However, instead of burning coal, wood pellets are used — more specifically, timber or lumber. In 2015, the first chamber was successfully converted to burn wood pellets instead of coal.

With deforestation — which wood pellets are a byproduct of — being a constant global problem and a huge contributing factor to global warming, bamboo might be the ideal alternative. The byproducts associated with bamboo harvesting can be compressed into bamboo pellets.

However, is bamboo renewable? As it stands, it’s a much better alternative than wood. Bamboo grows exponentially and the roots stay intact after harvesting, meaning constant replanting is unnecessary. This not only saves time but bamboo pellets can also be used for animal bedding and the process of mushroom growing.

If bamboo energy could be utilized, it could benefit organizations greatly. Sustainability pledges have become increasingly popular as companies try to lower their carbon footprint and incorporate renewable practices. Bamboo energy could help businesses reach their sustainability goals and run a more eco-friendly organization that doesn’t negatively impact the environment.

In Japan, a fully operational power plant entirely powered by bamboo has opened. Initially, this project was meant as a trial run for the many uses of bamboo, but have since grown exponentially. The power plant is still operational, and supplies electricity and heating to a nearby building material factory.

Bamboo as Fuel for the Win

It’s clear there is still a lot of research necessary in the field of bamboo as a renewable energy source, but the evidence so for provides a promising outlook. Organizations worldwide are becoming increasingly invested in finding sustainable energy solutions. Bamboo could be the answer the world has been searching for.