Biomass is already widely exploited in Australia with over 30 generators (as large as 63MW) in Qld and five in NSW consuming sugarcane bagasse. Co-firing in thermal stations has also been applied on a limited basis. Installed biomass capacity has been surpassed by wind power because the present biomass resource is limited to agricultural by-product and hardwood woodchip.
In the Bayswater B Submissions Report - AECOM states:
The inclusion of biomass co-firing is an option for thermal plant. It increases the capital costs and degrades plant performance. Macquarie Generation has been active in the utilisation of biomass firing to replace coal. The quantity of saw mill residue and vegetable oil co-fired at Bayswater and Liddell was less than 1% by mass due to limited supplies of biomass and plant performance issues. Furthermore biomass had to be sourced from distances up to 300 km incurring prohibitive transport costs. An additional concern is the use of diesel fuel consumed with associated GHG emissions for the transport of the biomass.
Macquarie Generation does not currently fire biomass at Bayswater and Liddell due to the impact the low energy fuel has on plant output and the high cost of transport and handling which makes it uneconomic. The lack of available locally sourced biomass and its high cost make biomass co-firing presently non-viable. It is also understood that the future availability of sawmill waste is threatened as a result of the declining native timber hardwood industry.
The specific energies of softwoods are significantly lower resulting in little if any useful heat release.
A related, emerging technology, might be called bio-solar. This employs genetically modified algae or other biological organisms to absorb solar energy to convert CO2to hydrocarbons for fuel (or plastic and other organic chemistry manufacture). This technology has potential to reduce electricity demand by displacing electricity in a number of industrial and transport processes.