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Biomass Plant Technicians

History

Natural sources such as wind, sun, and water have long been used for energy. For example, windmills were created centuries ago to pump water and grind grain. Ancient homes and buildings were built in ways to best make use of the sun, for heat and light. Solar energy is also used to produce electricity, a process first innovated in 1839 by early solar energy pioneer Edmund Becquerel. Hydropower electricity is the electricity created from water power of stored and released dams. Heat from underground reservoirs and hot springs, known as geothermal energy, is another ancient, renewable energy source. Biomass also dates to early times, with people burning trees, plants, and other organic materials for cooking food and generating heat.

Fossil fuels such as coal and gas were in abundance in the 1800s and 1900s. These nonrenewable energy sources were easier and more cost-effective to harness and produce as opposed to renewable energy sources. The U.S. fuel crisis in the early 1970s, however, raised awareness of the country's overdependence on foreign fuel sources and decline in U.S. supply of nonrenewable natural resources. This coupled with the spotlight on how mining, processing, and use of conventional energy sources were damaging the environment has increased the interest in finding natural, more sustainable sources for energy.

Today, biomass power continues to be researched, developed, and used as a renewable energy source that helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 deregulated and restructured conventional power industries, giving people more choices for energy sources. And the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 included more than $80 billion in clean energy investments. State and federal tax incentives make buying renewable energy more affordable to consumers and utility companies. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, biomass fuels provided about 5 percent of the U.S. primary energy used in 2016, and of that, about 11 percent was derived from biomass in municipal waste. 

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