Burning biomass to generate electricity

Burning biomass to generate electricity
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First Published: Tue, Apr 21 2009. 11 15 PM IST

Power from waste: AllGreen’s Anil Lala says the three by-products of the biomass gasification will serve as additional revenue streams. Hemant Mishra / Mint
Power from waste: AllGreen’s Anil Lala says the three by-products of the biomass gasification will serve as additional revenue streams. Hemant Mishra / Mint
Updated: Wed, Apr 22 2009. 10 25 AM IST
Bangalore: Coconut husks and groundnut shells usually are an eyesore, but they can actually be used to light up your house. That too with limited pollution, promises biomass power generator AllGreen Energy India Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of Singapore-based AllGreen Energy Pte Ltd.
AllGreen plans to raise Rs500 crore—70% debt through bank loans and 30% from equity—to set up ten 6.5MW biomass-to-energy projects across India over three years. The first three, set to be ready by March 2010, will be in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh.
Power from waste: AllGreen’s Anil Lala says the three by-products of the biomass gasification will serve as additional revenue streams. Hemant Mishra / Mint
The projects will use Indian Institute of Science or IISc-patented biomass gasification technology to turn biomass into gases, which will then power Jenbacher engines—made by strategic partner GE Energy India—to produce electricity. AllGreen says the process will create only carbon dioxide and negligible particulate matter as pollutants.
The process works by converting solid biomass into a mixture of combustible gases through controlled pyrolysis, or decomposing matter at high temperatures. Once cooled and cleaned, the resulting fuel gas is used to generate electricity with the GE engine. The extra heat produced in the process is used to generate chilling capacity for the cold storage facility.
And what’s more, the process will create three by-products—chilling capacity for cold storage facilities, charcoal, which can be turned into activated carbon for purification purposes, and carbon credits—all of which will serve as revenue streams, says Anil Lala, corporate development director at Bangalore-based AllGreen. While the cold storage facilities will be sold to farmers and retailers, activated carbon will be marketed to water purification companies and carbon credits to polluting industries.
India has an installed power capacity of 147,000MW and experiences a 15% shortfall during peak hours, between 7pm and 10pm, according to the Central Electricity Authority, which advises the Union government on power policies. While AllGreen’s 6.5MW power plants may seem paltry in the larger scheme of things, biomass is said to have the potential to light up entire rural and peri-urban areas in agrarian countries such as India.
There is a capacity constraint for biomass plants as “the resource is so spread out”, says Lala. Annually, a 6.5MW plant will need 40,000-50,000 tonnes of biomass from a 25km radius. In at least half of the planned facilities, AllGreen will ride on its partner ITC Ltd’s e-Choupal network to source biomass.
“We need many more (biomass-to-energy) players because the gap between generation and consumption is so large,” says S. Dasappa, scientist at the combustion gasification and propulsion laboratory at IISc, who was integral in developing the technology for AllGreen.
India can generate as much as 16,000MW of biomass power, according to the Biomass Resource Atlas of India, an IISc project to map biomass potential in the country, but only about 700MW is tapped now. This is the opportunity AllGreen is eager to tap.
poornima.m@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, Apr 21 2009. 11 15 PM IST