Market for biomass energy to grow 18% in next decade, study says

Energy generated from agriculture waste, manure and other wastes and feedstocks should reach a market value of $53 billion by 2020, a study released today says.

Boulder, Colo.-based Pike Research in its report Biomass Markets and Technologies cited continued "significant investments" in biomass research and development and the pace of commercializing new technologies. Advances made in cellulosic ethanol, which can be made from relatively cheap to produce switch grass rather than corn, and algae are among those advances.

“Biomass will continue to be the leading source of renewable energy,” said Clint Wheelock, Pike Research managing director, in a statement. “While it does not have the celebrity appeal of solar, wind or other emerging technologies, biomass is an affordable and reliable form of power generation. In addition, we expect continued growth in the adoption of biofuels during the next decade, as well as a proliferation of bioproducts such as plastics and chemicals.”

That may be good news for Sacramento-based Pacific Ethanol, which has an idled plant in Madera County and whose stock is hovering around the 50 cents-per-share mark. The company is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy but reached an agreement with creditors in June and expects to restart its idled plants soon.

Biomass, as defined by Pike for the purposes of its report, also includes corn and grains, plants and forest resources, construction and industry waste, food industry wastes and municipal waste.

Wheelock said applications for biomass range from power generation to heating, transportation fuels, chemicals and plastics. He said development of the biomass industry is driven by government policies and mandates and, "while world governments are likely to back away from some of the aggressive targets set a few years ago, Pike Research anticipates that biomass will continue to be a significant focus for energy policymakers."

Photo: Courtesy Pike Research.