Biomass and waste fuels produced 71.4 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity or 2% of all electricity generated in the United States in 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Biomass fuels include non-fossil, carbon-based (biogenic) energy sources, and waste fuels are all other non-biogenic wastes.
“Wood solids accounted for nearly one-third the electricity generated from biomass and waste,” according to the EIA. The majority of wood solids come from logging and mill residues; wood, paper and furniture manufacturing; and discarded large timber products, including railway ties, utility poles and marine pilings.
Byproducts of chemically processed wood are wood-derived fuels, and nearly all wood-derived fuels are waste created from making paper products. In 2016, wood-derived fuel black liquor accounted for 27% of electricity generated by biomass and waste fuels. Black liquor is a byproduct of the kraft pulping process. Other paper-making wastes used as fuel include sludge waste, wood-waste liquids and other biomass liquids, and altogether, they produced less than 0.5% of 2016 biomass-generated electricity.
Municipal solid waste from landfills accounted for 20% of biomass- and waste-generated electricity in 2016. About 51% of this electricity was generated with biogenic sources, including wood, paper, food, rubber and yard trimmings. The remaining solid waste included non-biogenic sources like plastics.
In 2016, landfill gas generated almost 16% of biomass electricity, and it is created by decomposing organic material in landfills. About half of it is methane, which is the key component of natural gas, and the other half is carbon dioxide (CO2).
The remaining 5% of biomass-generated electricity includes biogenic fuels, and most other biomass gas generation comes from wastewater treatment plants. Other biomass solids are byproducts of producing ethanol, along with crop-based and wood-based wastes. Agricultural biomass comprises of field crop residue and animal excrement.
Excluding non-biogenic municipal waste, the largest non-biogenic waste fuel comes from tires, and tire-derived fuel accounted for less than 2% of bio-mass generated electricity in 2016.