How does bioenergy compare with other land-based renewable energy sources globally?

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Abstract

The potential power generation from land-based bioenergy is predicted globally using a computer model. Simultaneous consideration of land use, cost and carbon restrictions enables practical evaluation of net power output. Comparisons are made with wind and solar power, and a sensitivity analysis is used to explore the effects of different policy assumptions. Biomass is shown to offer only moderate power-generating potential, and would satisfy less than half of current demand even if all suitable existing arable land were used to grow bioenergy crops. However, bioenergy can be cheap to generate given current economics, and is able to remove atmospheric carbon in some cases if coupled with carbon capture and storage. Wind turbines are able to provide more power globally, but photovoltaic solar panels are the only source considered with the potential to satisfy existing demand. Since land-based bioenergy is also restricted by the need to grow food for an expanding population, and technological developments are likely to greatly increase the viability of other renewable sources, the role of land-based bioenergy appears relatively limited and short-term.

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