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Literature Review and Sensitivity Analysis of Biopower Life-Cycle Assessments and Greenhouse Gas Emission

Biomass power offers utilities a potential pathway to increase their renewable generation portfolios for compliance with renewable energy standards and to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relative to current fossil-based technologies. To date, a large body of life-cycle assessment (LCA) literature assessing biopower’s life-cycle GHG emissions has been published.
Phase A of this project performed an exhaustive search of the biopower LCA literature yielding 117 references that passed quality and relevance screening criteria. Fifty-seven papers reported 280 life-cycle GHG emission estimates. Literature indicates that, excluding land use change (LUC), well-managed and well-designed biopower systems can deliver electricity with low life cycle GHG emissions compared to fossil fuels. The use of residues and organic wastes for biopower could result in significantly lower life-cycle GHG emissions if biomass is diverted from landfill or open-air burning. Using carbon mitigation technologies such as carbon capture and storage, rarely studied for biopower systems, could yield even deeper emission reductions.
Phase B of this project constructed a spreadsheet model of the biopower life cycle to conduct a sensitivity analysis using biomass supply chain parameters that were taken from applicable literature in the LCA literature review. The spreadsheet model, created from NREL’s Systems Advisor Model (SAM) structure, was expanded to evaluate GHG emissions from dedicated biomass crops. These capabilities were integrated into SAM.