Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sustainable Energy Development should not be at the cost of Agriculture

Dear Friends,

"Plants for Power plants" is the buzz word now. 

There are news reports that by raising plantations that could be used in biomass power generation, the wastelands in our country could be converted into green lands and farmers will get substantial entitlements and enviable returns.  

There is no question that "Energy is Engine for growth" and 'Bio-energy is Green energy and Clean energy'.  


The word 'Biomass' in this context can be referred as 'Bio-degradable wastes' that can be burnt as fuel. In wood fired Biomass power plants, biomass is burnt to produce steam which in turn is used for power generation through turbines.

The worrying development now in India is that almost all agricultural wastes find their way into furnaces for power production. Our self styled environmentalists conveniently forgot that for a sustainable agriculture a portion of produce must be returned back to our mother earth to maintain a reasonable 'Organic Carbon content' in the soil.  

If this pillage is allowed further then the all important 'Carbon cycle' will get seriously disrupted. It is an irony that the proponents of 'CDM's are availing Carbon credits for this carbon plunder.  

These Biomass Power plants have already started to use Coconut fronds, shell, fiber waste, Cotton stalk, straws and stalks of all the plants, Rice husk, Coffee husk, Saw dust,  Corncobs, Ground nut husk, wastes from all Grams (Red, Black, Green Etc..), Millets, Cereals after thrashing  and whatever things they see on road that can be burned. To their benefit our Govt's Biomass Power Policy clearly define the term 'Biomass' as all field level residues, plantation crop residues and Agro industry residues.

To put it simply all agriculture wastes that once found their way to Agri waste pit in our farm for compost making (FYM) is now moving out to these furnaces in the garb of producing 'Clean energy'. 

In the eyes of the farmer, the 'Rice bran/husk' is a cattle feed and a very good manure for his field. An industrialist view it as an input to extract cooking oil. The scenario is entirely different now as it is viewed in terms of 'Biomass availability' (Kt/Yr), Power potential (MWe), 'Calorific value' (Kcal) roughly 1.5 kg of rice husk yields 1 kwh (kilowatts per hour) electricity), and 'ash content' only. In future you may not get rice husk even for cattle feed also. 

Agricultural residual waste is essential for soil health and their total annihilation for power production is detrimental to the equally all important food production.  In similar lines,Cuban President Mr.Fiedal Castro objects to the idea of converting food into fuel.(Read : Ethanol Vs Poor).

So the need of the hour is a change in our Govt's policy thereby forcing these wood fired biomass power companies to procure trees cultivated exclusively for this purpose directly from the farmers under contractual agreement at a prefixed procurement price.

A.Vishnu Sankar.  

28 Comentários:

Dr. K. T. Parthiban, Ph. D., FC&RI said...

Dear Mr.Sankar,

I have seen your message on energy plantation and thanks for the promotional efforts.

To add to your view,I wish to inform that Forest college has already designed contract farming models exclusively for dendrobiomass based power generation.

These modes are now successfully implemented through Auromira energy company now slowly.

With kind regards,

Dr. K. T. Parthiban, Ph. D.,
Associate Professor (Forestry)
Forest College and Research Institute,
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University,
Mettupalayam 641 003, Coimbatore, India

A.Vishnu Sankar said...

On behalf our readers I thank Dr.K.T.Parthiban for his valuable comment.

He coined a new word 'Dendro-biomass'. 'Dendro' is a Greek term for wood. Biomass based electricity generation is referred to as dendro power and the technology is 'Dendro thermal technology'.

A.Vishnu Sankar

Vishnu Sankar A said...

TANGEDCO against hike in power tariff for renewable energy - Business Line, 08/06/12 issue.

See the link:

Vishnu Sankar A said...

Please read:

The Impact that Biomass Power Plants Have on The Environment:

A.Vishnu Sankar said...

Want to solve climate change? Let forests be forests.

Vishnu Sankar A said...

Where will all the land come from?

Leading researcher Dr. Chris Sommerville contends that we could grow all of the world's transport fuel on 1% of its land area with energy crops like Miscanthus. Even if magically irrigation water and soil fertility were not an issue, such an undertaking would demand 10% of all the arable land in the world. This means that either 130 million acres of wildland must be converted to fuel crops, or the world will have to be 10% hungry.


Vishnu Sankar A said...

Far from alleviating the competition that is between food and fuel behind skyrocketing food prices, cellulosic crops will make it worse. Contrary to industry claims, at least some energy crops in development stand in direct competition with food crops.

Department of Energy finds that reaching cellulosic targets would require removing nearly all agricultural residues and putting every acre of farmland under no-till practices.x Agricultural residues are turned back into the soil to increase organic matter and fertility. Without these residues, especially in corn, fields will require more nitrogen fertilizers, decreasing the overall energy efficiency and increasing the environmental footprint of those systems.xi Removing “waste” effectively mines the soil, increasing soil erosion, fertilizer runoff and nutrient loss.xii Removing organic matter from the soil also reduces water retention, making agriculture more vulnerable to drought.

Vishnu Sankar A said...

Whether burning trees can be considered carbon neutral.

The biomass industry argues that, because trees absorb carbon as they grow, burning them remains carbon-neutral as long as more trees are planted and forests are managed sustainably.

But some environmentalists point to studies reporting that, under some scenarios, wood-burning biomass plants can increase carbon emissions for decades even if they replace fossil fuels.

Visit link:

Vishnu Sankar A said...

Burning biomass for energy is an idea as old as walking on two legs.

Have a look at this excellent article:

Vishnu Sankar A said...

The Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission has announced new tariff for biomass based power plants:


For biomass-based plants, the tariff is pegged at Rs 4.69 a unit and Rs 4.86 a unit for the first two-years. This includes a variable cost of Rs 3.03 a unit and Rs 3.18 a unit for the two years applicable to all plants commissioned on or after May 15, 2006.

The fixed capacity charges range between Rs 1.65 to Rs 1.58 a unit for the tariff period of 20 years applicable to biomass-based plants commissioned on or after August 1, 2012.

For full report:

Vishnu Sankar A said...

Energy facility could heat greenhouse too to grow vegetable an other plants.

Vishnu Sankar A said...

Biomass power stations produce more emissions than coal-fired plants :

Vishnu Sankar A said...

(Please read the previous comment box for a clear view of the subject given here).

Biomass energy industry hits back at "Dirtier than Coal" report.

Vishnu Sankar A said...

Biomass power plants in crisis - Andhra Pradesh.

Of the 40 plants with a combined capacity of 190 MW, only seven are operational now

Transco offering Rs. 3.50 per unit while husk, required to generate one unit, is priced at 4-a-kg.

Vishnu Sankar A said...

REA responds to anti-biomass power report:

Vishnu Sankar A said...


Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, The Government of India has issued following news release:

The Minister of New and Renewable Energy, DR. Farooq Abdullah Informed Rajya Sabha today that Biomass power developers have initiated various steps to collect agro-residues from villages, its storage and proper transportation to biomass power plants.

Vishnu Sankar A said...

Each year, about 50 million Christmas trees are purchased in the U.S. .....biomass power plants, such as 'Biomass One' in southern Oregon.... taking in Christmas trees that would otherwise be junked in landfills.
Waste Derived from the Holidays.

Vishnu Sankar A said...

Claims and counter claims: 'BIOMASS DIRTIER THAN COAL'.

Vishnu Sankar A said...

EIA predicts increased use of wood in power, home heating sectors:

Vishnu Sankar A said...

Environmental group opposes Placer biomass power plant:

Read more here:

Vishnu Sankar A said...

Excellent educational info on Biomass is given at the given link by National Geographic.

Vishnu Sankar A said...

What is biomass and why is it controversial?

Vishnu Sankar A said...

TN biomass producers want electricity duty abolished (BUSINESS LINE):

The state has about 150 MW of biomass power plants. However, about a third of the biomass capacity is lying shut. The rest are barely surviving.Industry sources attribute this mainly to the increase in the prices of fuels.

Tamil Nadu’s electricity generation and distribution utility, TANGEDCO, offers Rs 4.75 a unit. However, most of the plants have ‘exited the power purchase agreement’ and are selling their power to third parties in the state. This fetches them between Rs 5.20 and Rs 5.50 a unit. Of course, they get ‘renewable energy certificates’ which can be sold in the market at a minimum price of Rs 1.50 a unit—but this is more in theory than practice, for the REC market is down in the dumps, as those who are mandated to buy the instruments have not been doing so.

Even factoring in the Rs 1.50 from REC sales, the biomass producers are “barely keeping ourselves afloat.”

Vishnu Sankar A said...

Environmental Impacts of Biomass for Electricity:

John Smith said...

Biomass is biological material derived from living or recently living organisms.

Biomass heating systems generate heat from biomass.

Biomass boilers burn bark, sander dust and other wood-related scrap not usable in product production.

Good information. Thanks a lot.

Vishnu Sankar A said...

News from The Hindu:
'Biomass power plants cut output'

Vishnu Sankar A said...

41 Scientists Warn Obama Admin Against Burning Trees To Produce Electricity:

Anonymous said...

Decline in soil organic carbon content worries ICAR - is the news published in The Hindu on 12/12/2014. LINK:

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