Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Technology Leadership and Innovation

First Advisor

Michael J. Dyrenfurth

Committee Chair

Michael J. Dyrenfurth

Committee Member 1

Robert J. Herrick

Committee Member 2

Nathan S. Mosier

Committee Member 3

Jordi Riba


Biomass is a renewable energy source that has been used for many years. However, its usage as an electricity source in Spain is not well developed due to many causes, among which highlights the lack of knowledge about the available technical potential. This research sought to close this gap assessing the technical potential for electricity generation using forest wood biomass in rural areas of Catalonia. The study characterizes the amount and type of biomass available in Catalonian forests that can be used to produce electricity without going beyond the capacity of regeneration of the forest, as well as the state-of-the-art efficiencies for commercially available biomass conversion to electricity technologies. The main outcomes of this research include the choice of a suitable technology and the evaluation of the technical potential for electricity generation in a sample of a rural Catalonian township. In particular, it was found that the forests of rural Catalonia yearly produce about 1.6 metric tons of biomass per hectare, with a heating value of 12.8 GJ per ton at 30% of moisture content.

To take advantage from such resource it was found that, given the amount of available resource, nowadays the most efficient technology is the internal combustion engine (ICE) coupled to a biomass gasification unit, with an electrical efficiency around 25%. However it was observed that this choice is linked to the scale of generation and, thereby, for larger amounts of biomass other technologies such as gas or steam turbines could perform better. To improve the efficiency of biomass usage, combined heat and power opportunities should be sought. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to study the possibilities of cogeneration in rural areas of Catalonia, looking for potential applications for the excess heat produced during the electricity generation process. Another aspect that requires additional work is the environmental and economic evaluation of the technologies to support a more informed choice of technology.

In addition to these relevant outcomes, applicable to similar regions in terms of area and type of forests, this research also ended up with the development of a methodology that can be used to find out the best option to take advantage of forest wood biomass resources in other regions.