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Biomass for Cooling System Technologies: A Feasibility Guide

Read the Full Report: Biomass for Cooling System Technologies: A Feasibility Guide

About the Project

New technologies are developing every day; nevertheless, the need for efficient and green energy is ubiquitous in our daily life. Biomass energy resources to operate an air unit are implementable through cooling technologies. These developments can result in an electricity free system to foster green energy worldwide by reducing the carbon footprint.

The concept of biomass energy stemmed from the growing concern and evidence carbon’s adverse effects on the environment when generated by the combustion of coal or other fossil fuels.   The use of biomass systems is beneficial because it uses agricultural, forest, urban and industrial residues and waste to produce heat and electricity with less impact on the environment than fossil fuels. This type of energy production has a limited long-term effect on the environment because the carbon in biomass is part of the natural carbon cycle; while the carbon in fossil fuels permanently adds carbon to the environment when burned for fuel.

Historically, before the use of fossil fuels in significant quantities, biomass in the form of wood fuel provided most of humanity’s heating.  Over time, other forms of biomass have also been employed for heating. In this regard and considering climate change projections, the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) decided to explore biomass cooling systems available for use in small-to-medium scale commercial or industrial businesses and residential units. While some larger industries already use this technology, there is limited information available on the use by other aforementioned sectors.

In the process of attaining in-depth information about this opportunity, valuable information was gained regarding the working principle of the whole cooling systems, including different types of components, capacities of the system, and a better understanding of implementation opportunities. The intent of this report is to detail the existing biomass cooling technologies, associated installation and manufacturing costs, and related energy requirements in order to provide an economic comparison to current conventional cooling systems used in the United States. While the economics may not work for all biomass fuel types at a given time, the information provided in this report facilitates future planning for when the economics prove feasible. Estimated savings could have a significant impact on overall operational costs of commercial or residential units. In addition, the objective of this study is to identify commercial units available for biomass cooling along with identifying cooling capacities that are economically viable on a small scale.


Biomass offers a competitive and often lower cost alternative to traditional energy sources. It is sustainable and a competitive alternative to oil, with some customers reporting a 50 percent reduction in cost compared to using heating oil.  When compared to propane, the cost savings is currently $64.12 per month. When compared to conventional electricity, utilizing wood pellets as a primary energy source results in various cost savings or losses based on the Coefficient of Performance (COP) rating along with the electrical cost. Inefficiencies of electrical generation and transmission are accounted for within the retail price. Lastly, Agricultural biomass sources, such as corn cobs, would provide similar cost savings as wood biomass depending on availability and pricing.

The economic data provided in this report demonstrates that biomass cooling is a viable option and worth consideration depending on the situation, and particularly if constructing a new building or retrofitting a current system where piping is in place.  Biomass cooling is a proven technology with case studies that demonstrate the economical and operational feasibility of biomass cooling systems.  Biomass cooling systems are also currently being implemented in Europe, specifically by Swedish companies.

Information detailed in this study guide can be utilized to make informed decisions on the feasibility of utilizing a biomass system, whether as a main source of heating and cooling or as an auxiliary system. It serves as a potential opportunity to reduce heating and cooling cost, especially if the current energy source being used is propane or fuel oil. While the economics may not work for all biomass fuel types at a given time, the information provided in this report facilitates future planning for when the economics prove feasible. The greatest potential benefit for cooling, however, is realized when waste heat or steam are also utilized.

As with all AURI research initiatives, the ultimate goal is application and implementation.  With the research data presented in this guide, a full economic feasibility assessment of the rate of return on a biomass cooling system should be more easily conducted by manufacturers and retailers, commercial and industrial businesses, organizations or the residential sector.