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For example, when a lake is formed behind a dam in a hydropower project, if the trees are not cleared from the site to be flooded the decay of the submerged wood will eventually produce considerable quantities of methane. In extreme cases the total amount of methane can make the project a net greenhouse gas generator, even though hydropower is ostensibly a renewable source of energy. Another man-made source of methane is found in landfill sites used to dispose of urban refuse. By burying the waste, air is excluded from the organic material.
Biomass, which is much less damaging, then becomes more competitive. In northern regions of Europe and the US, fast growing willows and poplars have shown the greatest promise among tree species. In warmer regions, such as Florida, varieties of eucalyptus have shown good promise, as has cottonwood, a native of the region. In the American Midwest native switch grass has proved attractive as a potential energy crop. Selection of an appropriate species is one important aspect of a successful energy plantation.
In Europe fast-growing willow and poplars are showing promise as energy crops. In the US eucalyptus and cottonwood trees are being grown in southern states while poplar, willow and alfalfa have been investigated in more northern states. More significantly, perhaps, native switch grasses have shown promise in the Midwest prairie states. These have the added benefit of returning the land to something akin to its state before intense farming took over. In Asia a number of different crops have been tested.
The Future Of Global Biomass Power Generation