Dedicated to the coming annual rings.

A short story of bioenergy

A short story of bioenergy

Told on 02.02.2020 on BiomassMuse.

Chapter I.

  • stone age
  • Bronze Age
  • iron age
Baum Brief history of bioenergy

1. Creation of the crown

It flows lively in space-time, a dense architecture made of biomass. Hidden deep in the rainforest, a group of great apes enjoys a portion of the yellow-green, juicy-sweet bio-energy that adorns the Horn of Africa. Vegan food, tasty, but not very energy-tight. The huge brains rarely develop their full potential. But the earth does not stand still. In the rhythm of the Milanković cycles, climate change runs like clockwork. The forest melts away and the dense forest becomes a clear forest. Around 3 million years ago, the branch of the great ape was literally pulled out of the hands of the branch that offered support. Gliding down from the protective treetop, they find themselves at the bottom of the facts. The human adventure begins. In the steppe we learn to walk upright and, thanks to highly developed and now free hands, conquer an unoccupied niche for bioenergy: high-energy bone marrow from the carrion.

2. The synthesis

What is bioenergy? Harvested and refined solar energy! Cyanobacteria found a way 3 billion years ago to convert solar energy into bioenergy in the primordial soup of the oceans: photosynthesis. In the flow of sunlight, they transform electromagnetic energy into chemical energy, store it as biomass and the green color of the planet takes its course. Solar-powered electrolysis (photolysis) is a masterpiece of nature and splits water into its atomic components. The oxygen accumulates in the atmosphere, while the hydrogen is used for the production of the bioenergy source ATP. Since then, ATP has assumed the role of the fundamental energy currency of life. It is used for the production of simple sugars and complex carbohydrates and is a fuel for the synthesis of proteins and fats. Bioenergy is growing.
Fundamental bioenergy source

3. The gift of Prometheus

300.000 years ago, Homo sapiens saw the light of the South African sun. As runner number 15, he takes over the baton from the previously run colleagues and is now responsible for the human team, Homo genus. The torchbearer wanders from today's Johannesburg, the cradle of Homo Sapiens, northwards to Eurasia. The conditions for people are still precarious. Hunger, illness, cold and robbers burn our ancestors' life candles in just 30 years. Like all people before him, the wise man (Homo sapiens) his hopes for a form of bioenergy that he learns to tame thanks to his skillful hands and the elegant dance of 85 billion brain cells: the targeted combustion of biomass.

4. The Eternal Flame

The fire changes everything. Man becomes a robber and gains control over one of the elements. No living being has ever had the power that a single person with a burning branch has. Hunger, cold, robbers. The Homo Sapiens gains a powerful ally for dealing with the greatest dangers of its everyday life. The burning piece of wood is the magic wand with which we will go to the top of the food pyramid. As an omnivorer Top Predator, half hunter, half collector, man can supply his growing brain with sufficient bioenergy and gains free time to train his intelligence. As bearers of the eternal flame, we learn to better hide the power of fire and to fully enjoy its benefits, warmth and light. Here's a nostalgic look at our first lighters.
First lighters
Bioenergy food fruits

5. Agricultural revolution

12.500 years ago today. All other human species, including half of the megafauna, have died out. Just Homo sapiens survives and recovers from the disasters of biblical proportions caused by the rain of a fragmented comet (Dragon) were triggered. In just 200 years, the temperature and sea level had risen abundantly (+ 10 ° C, +20 m). After the apocalypse made of fire, water and ice, the human family enjoys paradise. The climate has been gracious for over 2.000 years. Biomass thrives on nutrient-rich soils, which stimulates the beginnings of agriculture and animal husbandry. The agricultural revolution and the reconstruction of civilization (Göbekli Tepe, Tihuanaco) begin. People become sedentary, draw territorial boundaries and accumulate personal property. The female fertility goddess of nature changes into a male god who punishes social misconduct.

6. Legendary muscle strength

Muscle strength remains the central form of energy in antiquity - in other words, the bioenergy that humans and animals use. Heavy labor is done by slaves, which means that the societal suffering for rapid reforms in the provision of energy remains low. The first watermills, a forerunner of the steam engine (Heronsball), textile wax candles and oil lamps operated with olive oil are the shining contributions of this millennium. Thanks to advances in medicine, there is growing knowledge about the development of bioenergy in the human body, the legendary power of which is shown at the Olympic Games. Growing civilization needs arable land for food. This is achieved through deforestation and slash-and-burn in the primeval forests. 150 million people worldwide are releasing carbon dioxide and methane (animal husbandry, rice cultivation) into the atmosphere.
Bioenergy for nutrition

Chapter II.

  • Renaissance
  • industrialization
  • Modern
BiomassMuse Bioenergy

7. Self-confident bioenergy

After a frosty Middle Ages (little ice age) plagued by hunger and epidemics, the temperatures rise again. A renewed rebirth of civilization triggers a golden age. The Renaissance sparked the inner bioenergy and freed the individual from the fearful worldview of the hard Middle Ages. Bursting with creative energy, a Michelangelo Buonarroti and David create the prototype of modern humans and place them confidently within reach of the gods. At least since the masterpieces of the Renaissance Homo sapiens aware that a life force, an ashé, spirit, Kundalini, libido, breath, orgone, prana, pneuma, qi, ruach, calm or just a bioenergy flows in it. This enables him to imagine and create worlds. Man reaches for the stars.

8. The Firebird

What begins with the flowers of the Renaissance triggers a spring of the human spirit. And as the saying goes, once the ghost is out of the bottle, it is difficult to get it back in. And so the liberated genius of the Homo sapiens in all colors since the Renaissance. Not a day without something new thriving in science or art. The creative team from Faraday and Maxwell opens the door to a new world view and brings electromagnetism to people. Its visible and invisible waves and fields have a formative influence on our everyday life and potentiate the possibilities of homo sapiens. The firebird, which hatches from the fantastic aircraft sketches of a Leonardo Da Vinci, has grown into a burning phoenix over the centuries. Bioenergy urges us to leave the earth and spread out into the vastness of the universe.
Within reach of the gods
Bioenergy carbon carbohydrates history

9. hydrocarbons

The Renaissance focuses on the mystery of man. This sets the sovereign anchor for the upcoming voyages of discovery. One of the excursions takes us former tree dwellers into the microcosm, to the roots of organic chemistry, which describes the elemental carbon (Carboneum) produces her cotyledon by Lavoisier in the 18th century. Visible trees, leaves and fruits become invisible chains and rings made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Two thirds of all biomass are made from these three substance mixtures called carbohydrates. Organic chemistry explains the effects of glucose (C6H12O6), unsaturated trans fats or ketones (e.g. testosterone) on our organism. Biomolecules are the lego of life and a prerequisite for the flow of bioenergy.

10. The code of life

All living beings share a fundamental quartet of biomolecules: the nucleic bases. Consisting of only 20 atoms each, these 4 letters (bases) form the syllables (base triplets) of the life code. Lined up, they form the words (genes) and sentences (proteins) of a language (DNA), which writes down the blueprints of all the inhabitants of the earth. The blueprint of a species is divided into several books called chromosomes in 1888. Every cell in a human contains a library (genome) that consists of only 46 books. We have known since the beginning of the 21st century (2003) that our genome consists of around 20.000 genes. Our individual library is 99.9 percent identical to our fellow human beings, 98 percent with a chimpanzee and 60 percent with a banana. Beautiful new world.
Code of life

11. Era of fossil bioenergy

In the 19th century, organics experienced a boom that had not formed an organism for millions of years: the fossil-stored biomass. Although known since ancient times, the era of black gold has merged closely with industrialization. It starts with coal (1575, Scotland), accelerates with natural gas (1821, New York) and takes off with oil (1859, Pennsylvania). With the steam engine (18th century), the internal combustion engines (19th century) and the gas turbine (20th century), we are building three of the modern technology cathedrals. Only one of these masterpieces of human creativity will weigh 2020 tons in 500, turn itself around 3.000 a minute and provide electricity for two million Homo sapiens. With fossil bioenergy, our civilization is turbo-charged and literally under power.

12. Spell of Black Sugar

Cheap energy paves the way to modernity. The funded from the deep Black sugar is so seductive that it pulls our civilization under its spell. The bioenergy stored in one liter of petroleum contains 24 hours of human labor. 1 liter Tetrapack corresponds to the muscle strength of 3 days of craftsmen (10.000 kilocalories). This liter does not cost 50 cents on the world market. This corresponds to an hourly wage of 2 cents for the imaginary work of hard-working oil. In a way, oil for our time is what the slaves were for our ancient ancestors. A European consumes about 2.000 liters of black sugar a year, which corresponds to 50.000 hours of work. As if 6 people were hiding around the clock for us. We pay 1.000 euros per year for this.
Comparison of bioenergy sources

Chapter III.

  • energy transition
  • Recycling
  • Freie energie

13. Exponential increase

A basic principle of our species is heterotrophic energy generation. That means, regardless of whether we release bioenergy through internal digestive processes or external combustion machines, we oxidize carbon to carbon oxides (CO2, CO). Without a balancing amount of phototrophic organisms (plants) that bind the carbon dioxide back into biomass, the greenhouse effect occurs. As global energy consumption has increased 1850-fold since 20 and 1950-fold since 5, the annual CO2 emissions have also increased from 5 (1950) to 37 billion tons per year (2019). At the same time, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere rose from 315 ppm (1950) to currently 415 ppm and the average temperature (air) from 14 to 15 ° C.

14. Gaia awareness

As the original inhabitants of the tree top, we crowned ourselves in the 20th century. Thanks to the elegant fusion of inner and outer bioenergy Homo Sapiens as (probably) the first species to manage to temporarily leave the planet. Since then we have catapulted over 500 sapiens into space. The uplifted perspective reveals the limits of our homeland (sounds snotty, but it is like this) and allows us to mature. Pioneers of the Sapiens family appreciate the earth as a living organism Gaia or mother Earth. Although the atmosphere's CO2 content was twice as high as it is today, a switch from fossil to renewable energy sources is the more sustainable and less chaotic system. What do we call the Germans of the turning generation? Exactly, energy transition!
Temperature development in 500 million years

15. Bioenergy = biomass • x2

What started with the waterwheels and windmills of antiquity has led to a rapid expansion of renewable energies in the past decades. Bioenergy plays in the old and in the new team. If you succeed in transforming from fossil to renewable, it will co-evolve with it Homo sapiens continue. Biomass can be stored and transported. It is the most beautiful of all CO2 sinks. Qualities that the energy transition can use well. The smooth choreography from Team solar energy (Wind, PV and bioenergy), as well as coordination with colleagues from hydropower and geothermal energy are important steps for the success of the energy transition. Energy and matter, wave and particle, two sides, one medal. With every step towards a Kardashov type 1 civilization, we dance more closely with the elementary particles (quarks, leptons, bosons).

16. Evolution of bioenergy

The renewable bioenergy sources are traditional: wood, resin, wax, fish and vegetable oil. Refined energy sources have come in the past 200 years ethanol (1820, Germany), biogas (1890, India) and FAME / Biodiesel (1930, Belgium). At the beginning of the 21st century, 1st generation biofuels came under criticism for their competition with the Homo sapiens diet. The 2nd generation therefore relies on new input materials (cellulose, lignin, waste), energy sources (methanol, DME, hydrogen) and technologies (pyrolysis, HTC) that trigger the cascade use of biomass. The 3rd generation of renewable bioenergy finally transforms from surface to space, from land to water, from the cascade to the cycle.
Generations overview

17. In harmony with nature

In what periods do we plan? In moments like toddlers? In hours like an abstract speculator? In legislative periods like successful professional politicians? In eons like astrophysicists? Nature also has its rhythms: days, seasons, generations, Milanković cycles. The provocative picture of the Black sugar for fossil bioenergy does not mean that sugar is "bad". The fast energy source triggers a rhythm in the organism: steep increase in energy (high), steep decrease (low), desire for more. We are becoming more and more aware of our deep roots in the carbon cycle. Many sapiens want to find the discipline and enjoy the sweet energy moderately, relax the addiction. Strive to act in harmony with nature. Thinking of CO2 not just as a greenhouse gas, but as a valuable building block brings us closer to closing the cycle.

18. The gardeners of the earth

We are a species that not only harvests but also sows. Currently even new ways of life. For the first time, organisms are no longer based on carbon, but on silicon. Growing out of the fossil age into a renewable age is one of the great challenges of our generation. We need for the energy transition Team renewable until we reach the juicy energy exotic like nuclear fusion or the tapping of the ionosphere (Nikola Tesla). We use renewable hydrocarbons (biomass) for the raw material turnaround. Maybe our way of growing up succeeds and we do a useful job on our home planet. As a creative species with a penchant for complex technologies, global awareness and skilled hands, the following roles are available: "Gardener of the Earth" or "Cosmic Ambassador of Carbon-Based Life".
Moment of vision
Ron Kirchner

Ron Kirchner

Ron works as a consultant on energy & climate issues. As an environmental engineer, he advises decision-makers on the design or implementation of their concepts. He prepares studies, market analyzes and reports for state governments, companies and associations.

Recommend "A Brief History of Bioenergy":

Thank you!

Guest book on the story

2 responses to "Brief History of Bioenergy"

  1. Thank you dear Ron Kirchner,
    for your tireless commitment to renewable, alternative bioenergy and the use of biomass. The homepage of biomass use is very nice and very inviting, like biogas energy. What I have my problem in this country (Germany) is that politics does not go along with renewable PV photovoltaics, wind energy and biogas energy. Why was photovoltaics sacrificed in favor of the nuclear monopoly by the former "boat refugee" FDP Minister of Economics Rössler!
    Dipl.-Ing. Ismail Kilic
    Berlin, January 02.01.2020nd, XNUMX
    Mobile +491608539469

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How does the story continue?

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Our first lighters

Energy levels in the food of primitive people

Figures in kJ / kg (kcal / kg)
  • Carbohydrates (sugar): 16.000 (4.000)
  • Protein: 16.000 (4.000)
  • Fat: 36.000 (9.000)
  • Kale: 2.000 (500)
  • Banana: 3.600 (900)
  • Steak: 6.000 (1.500)
  • Nuts: 24.000 (6.000)
  • Olive oil: 36.000 (9.000)

Generated energy (heat) in the combustion of organic compounds

fuelsConditionCalorific value (kJ / kg)
Wood (fresh from the forest)fixed7.000
Wood (air dry)fixed16.000
Brown coalfixed20.000
(Bio) methanolliquid20.000
(Bio) ethanolliquid27.000
Natural gasgas43.000
Crude oilliquid44.000
(Bio) methanegas50.000
(Green) hydrogengas120.000


  • Values ​​are averages. The values ​​may fluctuate depending on the quality / purity of the heterogeneous compounds (wood, coal, oil).
  • Fossil bioenergy carriers are primarily hydrocarbons and no longer carbohydrates (wood). The oxygen disappears through high pressures and temperatures in the layers of the earth. The higher the relative hydrogen content, the higher the energy density of the energy source.

Generated energy (heat) in the combustion of organic compounds

BIOENERGY SOURCESSource materialProcessfuels
TraditionalWood, wax, resinOpen combustionFire, warmth, light
Fossil bioenergyCrude oilRefining, internal combustion enginesPetrol, diesel, kerosene,
1. generationRapeseed, corn, soybean, palm oilConnemann process, transesterification, anaerobic fermentation, distillation Ethanol, FAME / biodiesel, biogas
2. generationCellulose, lignin, used fat, waste, Pyrolysis, HTCCellulose-ethanol, biomethane
3. generationCO2, electricity, algaeReactors, geneticsMethanol, DME, hydrogen

Calorific values ​​of energy sources

Figures in kJ / kg
  • Grains: 16.000
  • Wood: 16.000
  • Lignite: 20.000
  • Hard coal: 28.000
  • Gasoline: 40.000
  • Natural gas: 40.000
  • Petroleum: 44.000
  • (Bio) methane: 50.000
  • (Green) hydrogen: 120.000