The production of bio-energy or bio-fuel from feedstock is an opportunity as this material is not used in other applications. This means a useful source of energy would be disposed of or will go unused. There is an opportunity that exists to use waste materials in a productive and economical way.
These so-call waste/opportunity fuels include the following:
The United States has over 300 million acres that are used for crop production. The top crops that were planted based on 2004 data were wheat, soybeans, corn, cotton, hay, barley, rice, and oats. Agricultural production often leaves reside once harvesting is complete. This includes stalks, cobs and leaves which can be used as a bio-fuel feedstock for energy production.
The processing of many natural foods, such as nuts, rice, and fruits leaves material behind. This will be in the form of shells, hulls, pits, cheese whey and other residue. Liquid residue has the potential to be a source of bio-fuel and bio-energy. This includes the use of residue in the waste management process.
The harvesting of wood leaves pieces of wood and other residue in the form of logs, limbs, and the top of trees. Most pieces that are left over are left in the forest or burned through forest management. Trees are a great source of bio-energy as they are a renewable resource. About 1,000 cubic feet of timber that is harvested in a forest produces over 2.3 tons of waste residue.
The proper management of forest means periodically thinning the number of trees. This creates a large number of trees that can be used for a variety of purposes. The western part of the United States uses a large number of trees from thinned forest for some power generation. However, most are being burned in a controlled environment and not for power generation.