To meet the rising demand for electricity, especially in rural areas, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is pushing a plan to generate power from agricultural residues like rice husk.
India being an agricultural economy, the rural areas have abundant residues from agricultural waste, including straw and husk from wheat, coconut and paddy, and others residues from cotton, fodder and sugarcane. Scientists are exploring these residues for generating power.
Considering the potential of biomass residues in power generation, the Centre too is trying to exploit the idea.
"We are setting up experimental power plants in various parts of the country for generating power from agricultural residues. Rice husk has a major potential for this purpose," said Dr. DK Khare, a scientist specialising in biomass for rural areas with the New and Renewable Energy Ministry.
"In Bihar, we have set up a plant which is generating amazing results for rural areas. We want to set up plants in metropolitan cities like Delhi too, but in urban cities it will be difficult as all the plants are being set up in off-grid modes," said Khare.
The idea can light up thousands of rural households and uplift the living standard of the rural populace. "Agricultural residues like paddy are difficult materials to convert into electricity. The first challenge is to procure these residues from farmers. As paddy is very costly in areas like Punjab and Haryana, we are trying to explore the idea in places like Bihar at a lower cost," said Khare.
"We are streamlining the process and if we have success in future, the rural areas will be benefited to a larger extent." The generation of electricity from agro-residues, including paddy husk, is done through a biomass gasifier system. In biomass gasification, incomplete combustion of biomass is done and this results in production of combustible gases that can be used to run internal combustion engines.
The ministry provides Central Finance Assistance (CFA) at the rate of Rs 15,000 per kilowatt. It also provides financial support of Rs 1 lakh per kilometre, for a maximum of three kilometres, for creating a power distribution network within villages.
"So far about 70 biomassbased gasifier systems of 32 kilowatt each have been supported for providing electricity in about 200 villages and hamlets, mainly in Bihar. Each system is capable of providing electricity to about 200 to 250 households and other small commercial loads for five to six hours daily in the evening, with an average total load of 25 to 30 kilowatts," Piyush Goyal, Minister of State for Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy, told the Lok Sabha recently.
>> Agricultural residues primarily include crops, plants, and agricultural, forest and agro-industrial waste.
>> The residues are combusted in a boiler to produce steam, which drives a turbine generator that produces electricity. This electricity will be fed into a high-voltage transmission grid to be transported to end users.
>> Generating power from agricultural residues represents a cost-effective and the cleanest way to provide renewable electricity
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