For a college project, I'm looking to learn about direct electrical and biomass heating as a means of decarbonization of our college campus? Where can I learn about these? Searching for direct electrical heating seems to focus on subsea pipelines. Where can I learn more about them?
Direct electrical heating probably refers to electric resistance heating. It's not the most efficient type of electrical heating available. Heat pumps win, they have a coefficient of performance of over one (COP > 1, values from 3 to 4 are typical depending on the grade of the heat source), whereas direct electrical heating has exactly COP = 1.
The benefits of direct electrical heating is that it's cheap to install and it does not require a heat source other than electricity. Heat pumps always require electricity AND a heat source such as a geothermal well.
However, a fuel-fired power plant has an efficiency of typically 30..50% depending on the type of technology (coal, biomass, liquid fuel, gas). Let us assume biomass here which should have an efficiency of around 30% typically. In direct electrical heating, 10 units of biomass create 3 units of electricity, that create 3 units of heat in electric resistance heaters.
What if you could burn the biomass directly in the building? Then you can from 10 units of biomass create perhaps 9 units of heat, the 1 remaining unit escaping with flue gases. Much more efficient.
However, what if you could use geothermal heat pumps? A geothermal heat pump has a coefficient of performance of perhaps 4, so 10 units of biomass create 3 units of electricity that create 12 units of heat from a geothermal well. The geothermal well supplies 9 units of heat and the electricity supplies the remaining 3 units.
Much more efficient that way.
However, the geothermal well needs to be drilled which is expensive. In contrast, a biomass boiler is cheaper, and resistance heaters are even cheaper than that.
And, as a hint: biomass is not sustainable. All of it is already maximally utilized today. To divert biomass to one use, it must come from some other use being reduced. Biomass is a zero-sum game. Not only that, but if we start to burn biomass en masse, faster than it grows, it will still result in a net flow of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
I'd focus on heat pumps therefore. They can use wind power. They can use solar power. They can use electricity produced from gas. They are very efficient, multiple times more efficient than direct electric heating.
You could also focus on the little-understood demand side too. Energy saving equals energy production. Or actually, energy saved is better than energy produced, because all energy production methods have drawbacks. If the heating energy need could be reduced by more efficient ventilation systems, better windows, perhaps more thermal insulators, reduced hot water use, reduced hot water temperature (better COP for heat pumps), etc. then harmful effects of energy creation could be reduced at the same time too.