People are quick to use the word “green”, applying the term to almost any energy converting process that reduces pollution. The problem with most so-called green solutions has been that there are so many things that limit their use. Until now the green movement has depended upon people, sometimes independently and sometimes through the government, being willing to subsidize green technologies, paying a premium to help the environment. And sometimes the solutions are not as green as they seem on the surface.

Nuclear power doesn’t produce greenhouse gases during generation, and so has been termed a green energy source. However, aside from potential environmental risks involved with the operation of nuclear power plants, it can take a lot of energy to process the uranium necessary to create fissionable nuclear fuel, and there is still the long term environmental gamble associated with spent nuclear fuel.

Solar power, in the form of photovoltaics, generates electricity directly from sunlight, with thermal solar technology generating power from the heat of the sun, both without polluting emissions. But the initial costs for both are still so high that the solar industry is largely subsidy dependent, and cost-effective storage of electricity for use at night remains an issue.

Wind power captures a form of solar energy from the sun-driven movement of the air, but has its own set of problems. Ignoring the controversy regarding the construction, hookup, and support of massive wind farms the size of small cities, there is the problem of reliability. The grid must guarantee enough power to meet customer needs all day every day. Conventional power plants can’t be turned off every time the wind starts blowing. As a result, wind power is increasingly seen as less of a replacement and more as simply frosting on the cake.

Biomass energy generation, the burning of renewable plant material to make electricity, has gained much of its traditional support based upon its practicality. It doesn’t require costly changes in infrastructure, or the development of new technologies. It’s available now, at a cost closer to that of fossil fuels than other alternatives. Biomass is essentially a form of solar energy, but using the highly efficient sun-capturing process developed by nature. The technologies are already available to eliminate pollution concerns, largely because the basic process itself is carbon clean, absorbing as much carbon during the growing process as is released during the burning process. Generally, the only real concerns have been associated with the possible impact that biomass demands might have upon the growth of food crops.

ViaSpace has managed to address the food crop issue, while simultaneously increasing efficiency and reducing costs. Its proprietary hybrid grass, called Giant King Grass, uses sunlight so efficiently that it can grow to 13 feet tall in a matter of months, ready to harvest and grow again without re-planting. With an energy yield three to four times that of other grasses, and able to grow on land not competing for food crop use, Giant King Grass makes biomass more economically compelling and safe than any other energy source, the greenest thing on earth.

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