In Spain, biomass is obtained from a wide variety of plentiful sources (forest waste, olive stones, nutshells, etc.), which guarantees an uninterrupted and abundant supply anywhere in our country. The benefits of using biomass for both thermal applications (heating, domestic hot water or industrial processes) and for generating electricity are indisputable, because , as well as replacing any fossil fuels, biomass provides the same advantages as conventional fuels in terms of comfort, simplicity and quality, and leads to economic savings due to its lower cost. In this regard, Spain is particularly known for using biomass from forest waste, especially woody biomass, for heating. It is European leader in so-called “mountain forests”, the principal use of which is to produce wood for energy.
Spain has experienced recent but rapid growth in the use of biomass for heating applications, which has given rise to a new economic activity involving the manufacture of densified fuels (primarily pellets). Numerous industrialists from a variety of sectors are making investments, enabling produc- tion capacity to multiply approximately ten-fold in recent years from 60,000 t/year in 2004 to close to 600,000 t/year in 2009.
Meanwhile, in relation to biomass heat applications, a number of equipment suppliers exist, especially in the low to medium power range, that sell notable amounts of technology and capacity, chiefly through exports to the American continent.
Energy service companies are critical to the growth of biomass for heat applications because they make certain installations are correctly designed and serviced, and guarantee biomass is supplied to users and at a competitive price compared to other options.
Many types of biomass
In Spain, sub-products from the pulp and paper industry, a variety of timber transformation industries, and the olive oil industry, as well as biomass from energy crops or agricultural waste (straw, olive prunings) or from our hillsides, are all used to generate electricity. In all, biomass electricity generation plants total over 400 MW of installed capacity.
The remunerative framework that could spark significant growth in the use of biomass for electricity generation is recent (Royal Decree 661/2007) and was enacted practically as the recession hit. Nonetheless, such projects should give rise to new capacity coming on line in forthcoming years.
On the other hand, several Spanish companies have been working hard to develop small-scale gasification technology, which has led to the first commercial applications. The benefits offered by biomass, in terms of a high volume of supply, excellent energy performance, ease of use in co-generation, and relatively low outlays (therefore making it accessible to many investors), means its future looks promising.Milestones