Biomass is increasingly used to heat homes and even power cities.
But a lot of work goes into determining the quality of the biomass.
Stephen Sundeen, the Chemistry Lab Manager/IT Director at Twin Ports Testing said, "We test the pellets to define what their moisture content, ash content, bulk density, pellet durability, and most importantly, the heat content."
Biomass is defined as organic plant matter. But the biomass that is used for heat and electricity tends to be left over product from other productions.
"Chips left over from lumber manufacturing, or it could be residual tree cuttings where you are managing forests." says Sundeen.
The leftovers are compressed into pellets that burn longer.
Homes in or near cities tend to use natural gas to heat their homes, but where you cannot get city gas, biomass is a viable option.
Sundeen said, "Rural, out in the country where your only options are propane or heating oil, biomass can come in as a viable option nowadays to give you a lower heating cost for your home than you would already have."
Burning biomass produces fewer emissions than burning coal, which makes it an attractive option for creating greener energy.
"What the power generators are required to do is list the amount of emissions they will be producing each year. If they can lower the value that they are currently at by offsetting the coal burning with biomass burning, then that gives them better flexibility and control over meeting their guild lines" said Sundeen.
While biomass is a green alternative to coal, the energy potential is much less. That's why power plants still need to use a mix of coal and biomass.
Meteorologist Adam Lorch