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Biomass is a source of energy from recent organic sources, unlike fossil fuels. The CO2 it releases when burnt is the same as that it fixes when grown, and so is called carbon neutral. In ecology, the biomass pyramid which shows the energy levels and flows between proimary producers - say phytoplankton - and top carnivores such as sharks, or humans.

Biomass is often called bioenergy or biofuel. Biomass fuels or biofuels are produced from organic materials, either directly from plants or indirectly from industrial, commercial, domestic or agricultural products. Biofuels fall into two main categories:

For small-scale domestic applications of biomass the fuel usually takes the form of wood pellets, wood chips and wood logs.

A lower tech renewable that has been around for thousands years but is enjoying a comeback is the wood burning stove. Whilst burning wood creates carbon dioxide the process is considered carbon neutral as the trees take carbon out of the atmosphere as they are grown.

These can be small scale burners for individual rooms, or fully featured systems for the whole house that replace conventional central heating systems. These are good if a building is off the mains gas system, since gas is usually (at present) the cheapest way to run a boiler. They are more eco friendly than oil, which is the typical country person's choice.

An automated wood pellet burning biomass boiler costs around 5500GBP - 12000GBP for a 15 kW model (the power needed for a three bedroom property) and requires storage space for the wood pellet fuel. Using a wood pellet-burning boiler will save around £200 a year in energy bills and around 8 tonnes of C02 per year. It is important when considering a wood burning system to find out the distance from the supplier and how much storage space is available.

The further the wood has to travel the less environmentally friendly it becomes, as transport emissions need to be factored in. Space available at the property affects the overall cost saving, as the pellet fuel becomes cheaper when bought in bulk. The Clean Air Act also affects which areas wood can be burnt in and so local laws will need to be checked to make sure it is allowed for the area into which it is being installed.