Overview - Biomass Sector in India
For India, biomass has always been an important energy source. Although the energy scenario in India today indicates a growing dependence on the conventional forms of energy, about 32% of the total primary energy use in the country is still derived from biomass and more than 70% of the country's population depends upon it for its energy needs.
India has a large agricultural industry and this sub sector of the economy produces 540 million tonnes of biomass each year, of which it is estimated that 70-75% of biomass are used as fodder, fuel and other purposes. The current potential for power generation from surplus agro and forestry residues is estimated at ~18,000 MWe.
With progressively higher steam parameters and efficient project configuration in new sugar mills and modernization of existing ones, the potential of surplus power generation through bagasse cogeneration in sugar mills is estimated at 7,000 MW. Thus the total estimated biomass power potential is about 25,000 MW.
Biomass Capacity Development in India
Social Benefits of Biomass based power plant
Biomass power generation leads to several social benefits:
- Biomass power plants monetize the heat value of biomass, which brings in additional income to various players in the biomass supply chain (farmers, traders, agro processing industries such rice mills etc).
- It creates additional employment in collection and transportation of biomass, as well as additional employment in power generation.
- It brings economic and income generation activity into rural areas – especially for women - thereby contributing to local & regional development.
- It diversifies the rural economy, which generally rely entirely on food crops, by introducing energy plantations. This is all the more important, since most energy plantations are grown on so called "wasteland" which have, no/minimal access to irrigation. This is a significant aspect in water stressed areas.
- In countries like India, the employment generated in fuel collection and logistics has excellent gender mix in favor of women, which, is lacking in many employment generation schemes of the government and in other sectors such as infrastructure building (roads, highways etc.). This leads to women empowerment in the plant hinterland.
- It brings additional skills to rural areas and can raise the income levels of farmers and laborers, and this in turn improves the standard of living. The creation of employment opportunities in rural areas reduces the government spending requirement on employment generation and at the same time brings in additional tax revenues to the government.
Environmental Benefits of Biomass based power plant
The benefits of biomass use as a source of fuel in cogeneration systems, besides energy security & independence of the industries, include several environmental benefits, mainly in terms of GHG reduction:
- Biomass Power generation, is considered to be CO2 neutral, since only the amount of carbon fixed during the growth of a crop/tree, is emitted during its combustion.
- Biomass is traditionally used as cooking fuel in households in many countries, especially in rural areas, which is the cause of indoor air pollution and health impacts, such as asthma, bronchitis, respiratory infections etc. on women & children, leading to morbidity & mortality. Governments in various countries provide clean fuels such as LPG & kerosene, at subsidized prices, to reduce & disengage firewood/ biomass as a cooking fuel. Hence increasing amount of biomass is available as surplus which can be more efficiently utilized for power generation.
- Open burning and cooking cause a high level of particulate matter problems, which are addressed effectively, with electrostatic precipitators (ESP) in biomass power plants.
- The surplus biomass is burnt in the fields, by farmers, to get rid of it in time for the plantation of next crop. This open burning in the fields, have environmental & health impacts which can be alleviated due to efficient utilization and burning process in the power plant.
- It reduces the transmission losses which otherwise would have incurred when the electricity is supplied to the rural areas where typically these plants are located. This in turn leads to less fuel usage to produce electricity by an equivalent amount. Under Evaluation
GIL Growth Plans
GIL has a strong pipeline of ~100 MW of projects biomass projects under evaluation at various stages of development. In this vertical GIL is very selective about its investments and targets only the best in class projects.
By 2015, GIL aspires to have more than 40 MW of best in class operating biomass projects in India and have a pipeline of 80 MW of projects under development.