Due to the increased pressure to reduce green house gas emission and provide "green" sources of energy Biomass has been bought forward as one of the most effective technologies for carbon neutral energy supply.
All the facts and information point to Biomass power being a very good, carbon friendly source of power as long as the sourcing of the Biomass fuel is ethical and truly sustainable on a long term scale. One of the biggest omissions from the proposed Southampton Biomass Power project seems to be the details and information that provide this guaranteed source of Biomass fuel.
Biomass is a generic term for any organic material that can be used to produce energy - more detailed information on Biomass is available here
- what this means in English is the Carbon (CO2) gas that is produced from burning the Biomass Fuel is only the same as the Carbon the Biomass took out of the air when growing so the two amounts cancel each other out and you don't add more carbon to the atmosphere.
There is an associated use of Fossil fuel and carbon release due to the nature of harvesting, processing and transporting the Biomass fuel from source to point of energy generation. As such it is a low carbon option, not a carbon neutral option. Interestingly depending on the source of the fuel it can in some instances be more of a carbon pollutant than an existing oil/gas/coal powered plant!
There is also a concern that environmental contaminants can be taken in by the Biomass fuel source as it grows/lives and these contaminants are then released to the environment when burnt. This puts the onus on securing a safe source of Biomass fuel as a common sense practice yet this seems the area with the most vague source of research and statistics to date!
Transporting fuels over long distances and excessive use of nitrogen fertilisers can reduce the emissions savings made by the same fuel by between 15 and 50 per cent compared to best practice so the source and management of the Biomass fuel source is critical to the overall carbon saving.