Varied interests in the energy and power sector viz., CDM, carbon rating, Monitoring & Evaluation, Energy Management, Rural Development; Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy related matters; Demand Side Management (DSM), Energy Audits, Distributed Power Generation (Biomass, Wind,Solar and Small Hydro), Participatory Management.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


The Plain Truth About Glorious Carbon Dioxide, Alan Caruba, CEO, The Caruba Organization

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    We are going to begin 2009 with a lesson about carbon dioxide (CO2).

    Why do we need to know about CO2? Because the President-elect, several of his choices for environmental and energy agencies, the Supreme Court and much of the U.S. Congress has no idea what they are talking about and, worse, want to pass legislation and regulations that will further bankrupt the United States of America.

    Do I have your attention now?

    For the purpose of the lesson, I will be borrowing heavily from a paper on CO2 written by Robert A. Ashworth []. It requires some understanding of science, but anyone with a reasonable education and common sense should be able to read it on their own. Ashworth is a chemical engineer.

    Suffice it to say that if any of the nitwits babbling about CO2 and global warming ever went to any of the several dozen excellent websites that provide accurate scientific data and analysis, they would cease from their abusive manipulation of the public and perhaps find honest work.

    To begin at the beginning; at the heart of the global warming hoax is the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. While it purports to represent the views of thousands of scientists, it does not. As Ashworth notes, "Most scientists do not agree with the CO2 global warming premise. In the United States 31,072 scientists, including the author, have signed a petition rejecting the Kyoto global warming agreement." An additional 1,000 scientists are being verified to be added to the list. Thousands more exist who find the assertion the CO2 will destroy the Earth totally absurd.

    Here's what you need to know; if an increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) is directly related, i.e. causes changes in the Earth's temperature, there would be a direct correlation between the two. As CO2 rose, we would see a comparable rise in the Earth's temperature. This correlation does not exist.

    Global warming liars, however, insist that CO2 builds up on the atmosphere over a 50 to 250 year period, but this is untrue. "Every year around April, increased CO2 absorption by plants in the Northern Hemisphere starts reducing the CO2 in the atmosphere," notes Ashworth, "and the reduction continues until around mid-to-late August when plants start to go dormant."

    "It is clear that nature reacts very fast in its consumption of carbon dioxide." Farmers call this the growing season, followed by the harvest season, followed by snow and cold during which nothing grows. Modern civilization, beginning about 5,000 years ago, is predicated on the ability to provide food to both humans and livestock, all based on these obvious seasonal cycles.

    The ancient Egyptians and Mayans understood the seasons, but they are apparently too difficult a concept for today's many ex-politicians, some PhD's, United Nation's flunkies, and high school teachers.

    Warming and cooling cycles are well known throughout human history, reaching back to the days of ancient Rome. There were Viking settlements in Greenland because they arrived in warmer times. By 1410 the place froze up. Shakespeare lived during a Little Ice Age when the Thames would freeze too. The man-made emissions of CO2 had nothing, zero, to do with these climate events.

    The IPCC, however, with its agenda to tax and control energy use that produces CO2, is not based on either the obvious or more complex science involved. Its "data" is the invention of computer models that are deliberately manipulated to produce false results which, in turn, can be announced and repeated worldwide.

    In March 2008, The Heartland Institute brought together more than 500 climatologists, meteorologists, economists, and others for two days of seminars and addresses that totally destroyed the IPCC's lies. It will do so again for a second time, March 8-10 of this year in New York City. Suffice it to say that the mainstream media did it best to ridicule or ignore the event and will no doubt do so again.

    Here, then, is a fundamental fact about CO2 you need to commit to memory. "Nature absorbs 98.5% of the CO2 that is emitted by nature and man." Nature is a totally self-regulating mechanism that dwarfs any mindless effort to "control" the amount of CO2 produced by coal-fired utilities, steel manufacturers, autos and trucks, and gasoline fueled lawn mowers, not to forget fireplaces where logs glow or just about any human activity you can name, including exhaling two pounds of the stuff every day!

    "Further," says Ashworth, "no regulation by man is necessary because CO2 is not a pollutant; it is part of the animal-plant life cycle. Without it, life would not exist on Earth. Increased CO2 in the atmosphere increases plant growth, which is a very good thing during a period of world population growth and an increasing demand for food."

    "Taxing carbon," Ashworth adds, "would do absolutely nothing to improve the climate but would be devastating hardship to the people of the world." For example, U.S. Representative John Dingell's plan to tax carbon would add 13% to the cost of electricity and 32% to the cost of gasoline; just what we need during a Recession that threatens to become a Depression.

    Dr. Tim Ball, a former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg, recently asked, "How many failed predictions, discredited assumptions and evidence of incorrect data are required before an idea loses credibility? CO2 is not causing warming or climate change. It is not a toxic substance or a pollutant."

    It is time to rebuke everyone attempting to foist the global warming hoax and carbon taxes on the United States and the rest of the world. It is time let Congress and the White House know that Americans will not be ruled by laws that have no scientific merit.

    Gopinath S
    Chief Executive
    nRG Consulting Services, Bangalore
    +91 99161 29728

    Friday, February 20, 2009


    The world needs crazy ideas to combat climate change!

    Op-Ed Columnist

    Yes, They Could. So They Did.

    Published: February 14, 2009

    New Delhi

    Skip to next paragraph
    Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

    Thomas L. Friedman

    So I am attending the Energy and Resources Institute climate conference in New Delhi, and during the afternoon session two young American women — along with one of their mothers — proposition me.

    "Hey, Mr. Friedman," they say, "would you like to take a little spin around New Delhi in our car?"

    Oh, I say, I've heard that line before. Ah, they say, but you haven't seen this car before. It's a plug-in electric car that is also powered by rooftop solar panels — and the two young women, recent Yale grads, had just driven it all over India in a "climate caravan" to highlight the solutions to global warming being developed by Indian companies, communities, campuses and innovators, as well as to inspire others to take action.

    They ask me if I want to drive, but I have visions of being stopped by the cops and ending up in a New Delhi jail. Not to worry, they tell me. Indian cops have been stopping them all across India. First, they ask to see driver's licenses, then they inquire about how the green car's solar roof manages to provide 10 percent of its mileage — and then they try to buy the car.

    We head off down Panchsheel Marg, one of New Delhi's main streets. The ladies want to show me something. The U.S. Embassy and the Chinese Embassy are both located on Panchsheel, directly across from each other. They asked me to check out the rooftops of each embassy. What do I notice? Let's see ... The U.S. Embassy's roof is loaded with antennae and listening gear. The Chinese Embassy's roof is loaded with ... new Chinese-made solar hot-water heaters.

    You couldn't make this up.

    But trying to do something about it was just one of many reasons my hosts, Caroline Howe, 23, a mechanical engineer on leave from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and Alexis Ringwald, a Fulbright scholar in India and now a solar entrepreneur, joined with Kartikeya Singh, who was starting the Indian Youth Climate Network, or IYCN, to connect young climate leaders in India, a country coming under increasing global pressure to manage its carbon footprint.

    "India is full of climate innovators, so spread out across this huge country that many people don't get to see that these solutions are working right now," said Howe. "We wanted to find a way to bring people together around existing solutions to inspire more action and more innovation. There's no time left to just talk about the problem."

    Howe and Ringwald thought the best way to do that might be a climate solutions road tour, using modified electric cars from India's Reva Electric Car Company, whose C.E.O. Ringwald knew. They persuaded him to donate three of his cars and to retrofit them with longer-life batteries that could travel 90 miles on a single six-hour charge — and to lay on a solar roof that would extend them farther.

    Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 5, they drove the cars on a 2,100-mile trip from Chennai to New Delhi, stopping in 15 cities and dozens of villages, training Indian students to start their own climate action programs and filming 20 videos of India's top home-grown energy innovations. They also brought along a solar-powered band, plus a luggage truck that ran on plant oil extracted from jatropha and pongamia, plants locally grown on wasteland. A Bollywood dance group joined at different stops and a Czech who learned about their trip on YouTube hopped on with his truck that ran on vegetable-oil waste.

    Deepa Gupta, 21, a co-founder of IYCN, told The Hindustan Times that the trip opened her eyes to just how many indigenous energy solutions were budding in India — "like organic farming in Andhra Pradesh, or using neem and garlic as pesticides, or the kind of recycling in slums, such as Dharavi. We saw things already in place, like the Gadhia solar plant in Valsad, Gujarat, where steam is used for cooking and you can feed almost 50,000 people in one go." (See:

    At Rajpipla, in Gujarat, when they stopped at a local prince's palace to recharge their cars, they discovered that his business was cultivating worms and selling them as eco-friendly alternatives to chemical fertilizers.

    I met Howe and Ringwald after a tiring day, but I have to admit that as soon as they started telling me their story it really made me smile. After a year of watching adults engage in devastating recklessness in the financial markets and depressing fecklessness in the global climate talks, it's refreshing to know that the world keeps minting idealistic young people who are not waiting for governments to act, but are starting their own projects and driving innovation.

    "Why did this tour happen?" asked Ringwald. "Why this mad, insane plan to travel across India in a caravan of solar electric cars and jatropha trucks with solar music, art, dance and a potent message for climate solutions? Well ... the world needs crazy ideas to change things, because the conventional way of thinking is not working anymore."

    Gopinath S
    +91 99161 29728

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009


    Emissions Trading: A brief negative resume

    Emissions Trading: A Brief Negative Resume
    2.2.09   Ferdinand E. Banks, Professor

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    The clock of stupidity is attached to a bell, and it tolls for your descendants

    - Donald E. Carr (1976)

    Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil (XOM) -- the energy firm that is often Number One on the Fortune 500 List -- has now come to the conclusion that emissions trading (or cap-and-trade) is doomed to fail. Instead, in a speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center, he declared that he was in favour of a carbon tax, which he called "…a more direct and transparent approach."

    Direct and transparent and, as a result, featuring (relative) certainty about carbon prices, which is very important for (physical) investment in energy intensive industrial countries. In addition they are an easily understandable alternative for Kyoto-like forums to contemplate and discuss, as compared to relatively complicated options like tradeable emissions permits that feature uncertainty in the matter of pricing, are susceptible to 'gaming', and if the evidence has any significance, cannot be systematized internationally The influential Al Gore, and the climate scientist James Hansen prefer a carbon tax, and British Columbia (Canada) installed this arrangement last year.

    An example of quasi-gaming might be useful here: EU firms buying carbon credits from abroad which sell for about 75% of EU permits, and probably less on various occasions. The effectiveness of this option for reducing emissions has apparently been questioned, as well it might, because emissions from enterprises that trade permits continued to rise during the first two years of the system, and I would be very surprised to hear that there was any change before the recent economic meltdown reduced economic activity.

    For what it is worth, I am also in favour of carbon taxes, because they are not only direct and transparent but because, ideally, the revenues from these taxes can be used to help finance a new energy 'portfolio', which to my way of thinking should include nuclear energy as the principal component. I will not treat this subject in the present article however, because it is spelled out in some detail in the long survey of nuclear energy that I am completing (2009).

    The interesting thing here is that Mr Tillerson – and perhaps most of his executives – have at one time made a point of vehemently denying global warming. Perhaps he has adopted the attitude of this teacher of economics and finance, which is that a new energy 'portfolio' is absolutely essential, regardless of whether excessive global warming is real or fictitious, or will not put in an appearance for another five hundred or five thousand years, and any strategy (or program) for combating global warming that does not explicitly contribute to obtaining that portfolio should be designated suboptimal. This includes carbon taxes.


    According to Robert Frank (2006) in his important textbook, "if a single agency had the power to enact globally binding environmental legislation, it would be a straightforward, albeit costly matter to reduce the build-up of greenhouse gases. But in our world of sovereign nations, this power does not exist."

    This conclusion can be adjusted. If a miracle had taken place, and the Kyoto delegates had specified that climate issues should be exclusively dealt with by heads of governments and senior civil servants from the major greenhouse gas emitting countries, meeting several times a year, we might already be in possession of the correct environmental legislation, instead of the superficial bunkum affiliated with emissions trading that was eventually put into circulation. Moreover, the cost mentioned by Frank might have been quite tolerable.

    My favourite approach to the interior mechanics of emissions trading almost always begins with a perusal of the exchanges for electricity pricing, and in particular the Nordic Electricity Exchange (NORDPOOL), whose endeavours I usually described to my students as a 'scam', and deserving the attentions of serious-fraud researchers in every institution of higher learning in Scandinavia. Let's consider a simple example.

    Over the previous year, electricity prices in Sweden almost doubled. The explanation provided by NORDPOOL turns on the increased cost for emissions permits by electricity generators in the north of Europe, as well as the increased price of energy inputs for power stations. But since all except seven or eight percent of Swedish electricity is generated with nuclear and hydro, emissions permits and e.g. higher oil and coal prices should be, ceteris paribus, largely irrelevant for the remaining ninety-two or ninety-three percent of Swedish electric generators. Even so, Swedish ratepayers are faced with higher prices due to the presence of fossil fuel based equipment in other countries associated with NORDPOOL, as well as the occasional appearance of a very high demand for electricity in those countries.

    Now consider the situation in the future where emissions permits are concerned. Regardless of good intentions by fossil fuel users and politicians, fossil fuel consumption will (ceteris paribus) still increase by a large amount because estimates are that in the next twenty-five years, the global output of electricity might increase by fifty percent. Even if Sweden were to restart the two nuclear reactors that were shut down, increase the number of windmills in this country by the absurd amount desired by the industry minister, and force a large part of the electricity intensive Swedish industry to leave the country, an increase in the demand for fossil fuel based electricity exterior to this country, and a possible rise in the price of emissions permits to various enterprises outside Sweden, would almost certainly boost electricity prices in Sweden. What this means is that emissions trading functions as an unjustified tax on the good citizens of this country, and the same might apply to the citizens of any country who have their electricity priced in an exchange of the NORDPOOL variety.

    Given these circumstances, it should be made clear to all interested persons that at best emissions trading reduces to a highly efficient way to get rid of excessive carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in what the game theorist Ken Binmore calls a "toy market", by which he means a textbook market that is devoid of annoyances like risk (or uncertainty), monopoly, irrationality, spillovers (i.e. externalities), dishonesty and anything else that prevents a few simple equations from being put on a blackboard for the delight of drowsy teachers and students in some storefront university. Despite a statement in Newsweek that in order to suppress excessive CO2, the United States needs a cap-and-trade system of the kind providing 'magnificent' results in Europe, the sad truth is that the European arrangement is a cynical deception that mainly benefits the brokers and 'intermediaries' who expect to get rich by playing games with 'emissions credits' or 'carbon trading' or marketable emissions permits or whatever bizarre and/or misleading term that charlatans in the financial districts of North America and Europe dream up in order to make this activity appear socially beneficial. Mr Francis Sullivan, the environmental adviser at the large European bank HSBC, spent a few months evaluating the market for 'carbon credits', which led him to suggest that the police and their experts should look into the trading of these permits. To his way of thinking, irregularities in this market are so great that people might lose faith in them. This is naiveté, because I have taken the same approach with NORDPOOL, however that organization is sailing along at a more relaxed pace than ever.

    An interesting short account of the flaws of emissions trading originates with Emma Johansson (2003), who points out that "…a utility that runs fossil fuel-fired plants will be exposed to an additional price risk that affects risk and return. As a result the classic spark spread (price difference between the price of electricity and the price of the fuel used to generate the electricity) will have an additional component." What Ms Johansson forgot to add was that according to mainstream economic theory, this increase in risk will almost certainly reduce the investment in physical capital, and therefore many of the new electric generating plants that are essential for maintaining our standard of living later in this century might not be constructed. After reading the Johansson paper interested parties can scrutinize a short article by Uwe Maassen in the same publication, which examines some further inconveniences that can come about if an unreasonable confidence is placed in 'carbon trading'.

    According to Andrei Marcu of the International Emissions Trading Association, "Europe is now clearly committed to action on climate change, whatever happens to the Kyoto treaty." I'm sure that he is sincere in this belief, because his salary (and bonuses) will depend on the trading successes of carbon permits, and not the fate of the Kyoto Protocol nor a reduction in the stock of physical carbon in the atmosphere. For him and his collaborators, cash comes first, and carbon in its various forms somewhere to the rear. Another heavyweight player in this burlesque, Professor Michael Grubb of London's Imperial College, as well as the ludicrously named 'Carbon Trust', informed The Economist (UK) that "Kyoto was designed for the rich countries to miss their domestic targets. That's why we included international emissions trading." (April 3rd, 2004). The identity of the "we" to whom he was referring was not clarified, however for the purpose of the present contribution it could apply to everyone with expectations of a first-class ticket on what they hope will become a carbon-trading gravy train.

    That brings us to a scrutiny of the truth of emissions trading in Europe, as compared to the fantasies that evidently have been foisted on the new American president and his 'energy team' by energy-economics know-nothings.

    It is often argued that the most effective device for reducing harmful emissions is via a tax on emitters, which in the theoretical literature is called a Pigou tax – after the Cambridge (UK) economist Arthur Pigou. Japan and France have adopted this approach, however it was ignored at Kyoto because the delegates at that meeting did not want to lose access to future talk-shops by being accused of adding to the tax woes of citizens in the most important industrial countries, and especially the United States.

    In the chapter on the environment in the next edition of my energy economics textbook, I intend to extend Pigou-like schemes beyond their present use in the countries mentioned above. I might also spend some time examining present and/or intended emissions trading in Europe, where in the interest of expanding this practice, the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) was established. Apparently this clumsy arrangement has been pictured as theoretically attractive and operationally successful, which is an egregious departure from the truth. The emissions permits that (in theory) were to be auctioned off were instead provided free, and since estimates of carbon emissions by the authorities and their 'experts' were grossly inaccurate, it was impossible to establish a stable market – by which I mean a market in which a (dynamically) sustainable or nearly sustainable supply-demand equilibrium was established, and therefore the 'natural' volatility of prices was minimized.

    For instance, permit prices were at times so low that instead of investing in superior technologies – which was the object of the exercise – heavy polluters resorted to buying permits, which enabled them to continue generating a heavy flow of pollution. In addition, some of them were undoubtedly able to raise the price of their output by enough to pay or almost pay for these permits. What about auctioning these permits off, as Lord Turner – head of the UK's Climate Change Committee – has mandated for his country, and the European parliament is in the process of specifying for all EU countries? Given the lack of information about the sources of pollution and the districts that are most polluted, the impossibility of combining meteorological information with economic data, and the shortage of relevant economic training on the part of the individuals who will work with these matters, it is likely that we have another example of what Jean-Paul Sartre called "a fire without a tomorrow".


    The governor of California would not take kindly to this presentation, because he has formed an international emissions trading 'syndicate', however his focus is on show business rather than economics. Moreover, I often receive mail from critics, whom I immediately inform that I would be genuinely overjoyed if they appeared in Uppsala some fine day for the purpose of ventilating their objections in an open forum. But if they did, I would have no choice but to make it clear that the directors of many energy intensive companies in Sweden – despite their traditional preferences for market-based solutions – have for the last few years informed friends and neighbours in this country and elsewhere that emissions trading is one of the worst ideas ever hatched, and may cause irreparable harm to consumers as well as the Swedish industry. Never forget that thanks to the presence of NORDPOOL, some energy intensive industries in this environmentally superior country will have to pay unreasonably high prices for emissions permits, and in addition would experience a higher price for the electricity they consume, despite much of it being generated in 'emissions-free' facilities.

    Unfortunately, I can remember failing to convince one of my former mathematical economics students in Australia that he should accept the above assertions at face value. That gentleman wanted some 'algebra', but what I gave him instead was some primary school arithmetic in conjunction with a touch of intermediate economic theory. A few years ago the Swedish government planned to issue one group of companies emission permits for 250,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. The emissions from these companies were 450,000 tonnes the previous year, which implied that if those enterprises wanted to maintain the output of the previous year, then they would have to go into a 'market' (or perhaps better what the prominent New Zealand economist Owen McShane called a "pseudo-market") and purchase – at an unknown price – emission permits that gave them the right to emit about 200,000 tonnes of CO2.

    Purchase at an unknown price! Isn't this the kind of short-sighted dilemma Emma Johansson was talking about, and which may be one of the reasons why even Jerry Taylor – senior fellow and environmental researcher at the conservative Cato Institute (in Washington D.C.) – has expressed a preference for carbon taxes over cap-and-trade foolishness. Perhaps, like me, finds carbon taxes more efficient, because among other things it may be possible to design a system in which tax revenues can be returned (in some simple or complicated way) to the aggregate of enterprises paying these taxes.

    What kind of system do I have in mind? I could say, but I doubt whether I am more competent where this issue is concerned than President-elect Obama's energy team, even though I persist in calling them an 'environmental team'; and while they are working this out, they can also produce a calculation which shows that when all relevant factors are taken into consideration, a slightly larger nuclear commitment should be the foundation of a new energy policy for the United States, and every country with a serious and intelligent government, while any involvement with emissions trading, carbon trading or cap-and-trade should be dumped and forgotten as soon as possible.

    Gopinath S
    +91 99161 29728


    Woody biomass utilization for power generation

    Woody Biomass Utilization for Power Generation -- An Overview
    2.4.09   Salman Zafar, Renewable Energy Advisor, Bioenergy

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    Biomass power is the largest source of renewable energy as well as a vital part of the waste management infrastructure. An increasing global awareness about environmental issues is acting as the driving force behind the use of alternative and renewable sources of energy. A greater emphasis is being laid on the promotion of bioenergy in the industrialized as well as developing world to counter environmental issues.

    Biomass may be used for energy production at different scales, including large-scale power generation, CHP, or small-scale thermal heating projects at governmental, educational or other institutions. Biomass comes from both human and natural activities and incorporates by-products from the timber industry, agricultural crops, forestry residues, household wastes, and wood. The resources range from corn kernels to corn stalks, from soybean and canola oils to animal fats, from prairie grasses to hardwoods, and even include algae. The largest source of energy from wood is pulping liquor or black liquor, a waste product from the pulp and paper industry.

    Woody biomass is the most important renewable energy source if proper management of vegetation is ensured. The main benefits of woody biomass are as follows:

    • Uniform distribution over the world's surface, in contrast to finite sources of energy.
    • Less capital-intensive conversion technologies employed for exploiting the energy potential.
    • Attractive opportunity for local, regional and national energy self-sufficiency.
    • Techno-economically viable alternative to fast-depleting fossil fuel reserves.
    • Reduction in GHGs emissions.
    • Provide opportunities to local farmers, entrepreneurs and rural population in making use of its sustainable development potential.

    The United States is currently the largest producer of electricity from biomass having more than half of the world's installed capacity. Biomass represents 1.5 percent of the total electricity supply compared to 1 percent for wind and solar combined. More than 7,800 MW of power is produced in biomass power plants installed at more than 350 locations in the U.S., which represent about 1 percent of the total electricity generation capacity. According to the International Energy Agency, approximately 11 percent of the energy is derived from biomass throughout the world.

    Biomass Resources

    Biomass processing systems constitute a significant portion of the capital investment and operating costs of a biomass conversion facility depending on the type of biomass to be processed as well as the feedstock preparation requirements. Its main constituents are systems for biomass storage, handling, conveying, size reduction, cleaning, drying, and feeding. Harvesting biomass crops, collecting biomass residues, and storing and transporting biomass resources are critical elements in the biomass resource supply chain.

    All processing of biomass yields byproducts and waste streams collectively called residues, which have significant energy potential. A wide range of biomass resources are available for transformation into energy in natural forests, rural areas and urban centres. Some of the sources have been discussed:

    Figure 1: A host of natural and human activities contributes to the biomass feedstock

    Pulp and paper industry residues. The largest source of energy from wood is the waste product from the pulp and paper industry called black liquor. Logging and processing operations generate vast amounts of biomass residues. Wood processing produces sawdust and a collection of bark, branches and leaves/needles. A paper mill, which consumes vast amount of electricity, utilizes the pulp residues to create energy for in-house usage.

    Forest residues. Forest harvesting is a major source of biomass for energy. Harvesting may occur as thinning in young stands, or cutting in older stands for timber or pulp that also yields tops and branches usable for bioenergy. Harvesting operations usually remove only 25 to 50 percent of the volume, leaving the residues available as biomass for energy. Stands damaged by insects, disease or fire are additional sources of biomass. Forest residues normally have low density and fuel values that keep transport costs high, and so it is economical to reduce the biomass density in the forest itself.

    Agricultural or crop residues. Agriculture crop residues include corn stover (stalks and leaves), wheat straw, rice straw, nut hulls etc. Corn stover is a major source for bioenergy applications due to the huge areas dedicated to corn cultivation worldwide.

    Urban wood waste. Such waste consists of lawn and tree trimmings, whole tree trunks, wood pallets and any other construction and demolition wastes made from lumber. The rejected woody material can be collected after a construction or demolition project and turned into mulch, compost or used to fuel bioenergy plants.

    Energy crops. Dedicated energy crops are another source of woody biomass for energy. These crops are fast-growing plants, trees or other herbaceous biomass which are harvested specifically for energy production. Rapidly-growing, pest-tolerant, site and soil-specific crops have been identified by making use of bioengineering. For example, operational yield in the northern hemisphere is 10-15 tonnes/ha annually. A typical 20 MW steam cycle power station using energy crops would require a land area of around 8,000 ha to supply energy on rotation.

    Herbaceous energy crops are harvested annually after taking two to three years to reach full productivity. These include grasses such as switchgrass, elephant grass, bamboo, sweet sorghum, wheatgrass etc.

    Short rotation woody crops are fast growing hardwood trees harvested within five to eight years after planting. These include poplar, willow, silver maple, cottonwood, green ash, black walnut, sweetgum, and sycamore.

    Industrial crops are grown to produce specific industrial chemicals or materials, e.g. kenaf and straws for fiber, and castor for ricinoleic acid. Agricultural crops include cornstarch and corn oil; soybean oil and meal; wheat starch, other vegetable oils, etc. Aquatic resources such as algae, giant kelp, seaweed, and microflora also contribute to bioenergy feedstock.

    Thermo-chemical Conversion Technologies

    There are many ways to generate electricity from biomass using thermo-chemical pathway. These include directly-fired or conventional steam approach, co-firing, pyrolysis and gasification.

    Direct Fired or Conventional Steam Boiler. Most of the woody biomass-to-energy plants use direct-fired system or conventional steam boiler, whereby biomass feedstock is directly burned to produce steam leading to generation of electricity. In a direct-fired system, biomass is fed from the bottom of the boiler and air is supplied at the base. Hot combustion gases are passed through a heat exchanger in which water is boiled to create steam.

    Biomass is dried, sized into smaller pieces and then pelletized or briquetted before firing. Pelletization is a process of reducing the bulk volume of biomass feedstock by mechanical means to improve handling and combustion characteristics of biomass. Wood pellets are normally produced from dry industrial wood waste, as e.g. shavings, sawdust and sander dust. Pelletization results in:

    • Concentration of energy in the biomass feedstock.
    • Easy handling, reduced transportation cost and hassle-free storage.
    • Low-moisture fuel with good burning characteristics.
    • Well-defined, good quality fuel for commercial and domestic use.

    The processed biomass is added to a furnace or a boiler to generate heat which is then run through a turbine which drives an electrical generator. The heat generated by the exothermic process of combustion to power the generator can also be used to regulate temperature of the plant and other buildings, making the whole process much more efficient. Cogeneration of heat and electricity provides an economical option, particularly at sawmills or other sites where a source of biomass waste is already available. For example, wood waste is used to produce both electricity and steam at paper mills.

    Co-firing. Co-firing is the simplest way to use biomass with energy systems based on fossil fuels. Small portions (up to 15 percent) of woody and herbaceous biomass such as poplar, willow and switch grass can be used as fuel in an existing coal power plant. Like coal, biomass is placed into the boilers and burned in such systems. The only cost associated with upgrading the system is incurred in buying a boiler capable of burning both the fuels, which is a more cost-effective than building a new plant.

    The environmental benefits of adding biomass to coal includes decrease in nitrogen and sulphur oxides which are responsible for causing smog, acid rain and ozone pollution. In addition, relatively lower amount of carbon dioxide is released into the atmospheres. Co-firing provides a good platform for transition to more viable and sustainable renewable energy practices.

    Pyrolysis. Pyrolysis offers a flexible and attractive way of converting solid biomass into an easily stored and transportable fuel, which can be successfully used for the production of heat, power and chemicals. In pyrolysis, biomass is subjected to high temperatures in the absence of oxygen resulting in the production of pyrolysis oil (or bio-oil), char or syngas which can then be used to generate electricity. The process transforms the biomass into high quality fuel without creating ash or energy directly.

    Wood residues, forest residues and bagasse are important short term feed materials for pyrolysis being aplenty, low-cost and good energy source. Straw and agro residues are important in the longer term; however straw has high ash content which might cause problems in pyrolysis. Sewage sludge is a significant resource that requires new disposal methods and can be pyrolysed to give liquids.

    Pyrolysis oil can offer major advantages over solid biomass and gasification due to the ease of handling, storage and combustion in an existing power station when special start-up procedures are not necessary.

    Biomass gasification. Gasification processes convert biomass into combustible gases that ideally contain all the energy originally present in the biomass. In practice, conversion efficiencies ranging from 60 percent to 90 percent are achieved. Gasification processes can be either direct (using air or oxygen to generate heat through exothermic reactions) or indirect (transferring heat to the reactor from the outside). The gas can be burned to produce industrial or residential heat, to run engines for mechanical or electrical power, or to make synthetic fuels.

    Biomass gasifiers are of two kinds - updraft and downdraft. In an updraft unit, biomass is fed in the top of the reactor and air is injected into the bottom of the fuel bed. The efficiency of updraft gasifiers ranges from 80 to 90 per cent on account of efficient counter-current heat exchange between the rising gases and descending solids. However, the tars produced by updraft gasifiers imply that the gas must be cooled before it can be used in internal combustion engines. Thus, in practical operation, updraft units are used for direct heat applications while downdraft ones are employed for operating internal combustion engines.

    Figure 2: Schematic of updraft and downdraft gasifiers

    Large scale applications of gasifiers include comprehensive versions of the small scale updraft and downdraft technologies, and fluidized bed technologies. The superior heat and mass transfer of fluidized beds leads to relatively uniform temperatures throughout the bed, better fuel moisture utilization, and faster rate of reaction, resulting in higher throughput capabilities.

    Woody Biomass and Sustainability

    Harvesting practices remove only a small portion of branches and tops leaving sufficient biomass to conserve organic matter and nutrients. Moreover, the ash obtained after combustion of biomass compensates for nutrient losses by fertilizing the soil periodically in natural forests as well as fields. The impact of forest biomass utilization on the ecology and biodiversity has been found to be insignificant. In fact, forest residues are environmentally beneficial because of their potential to replace fossil fuels as an energy source.

    Plantation of energy crops on abandoned agricultural land will lead to an increase in species diversity. The creation of structurally and species diverse forests helps in reducing the impacts of insects, diseases and weeds. Similarly the artificial creation of diversity is essential when genetically modified or genetically identical species are being planted. Short-rotation crops give higher yields than forests so smaller tracts are needed to produce biomass which results in the reduction of area under intensive forest management. An intelligent approach in forest management will go a long way in the realization of sustainability goals.

    Improvements in agricultural practices promises to increased biomass yields, reductions in cultivation costs, and improved environmental quality. Extensive research in the fields of plant genetics, analytical techniques, remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) will immensely help in increasing the energy potential of biomass feedstock.

    Bioenergy systems offer significant possibilities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions due to their immense potential to replace fossil fuels in energy production. Biomass reduces emissions and enhances carbon sequestration since short-rotation crops or forests established on abandoned agricultural land accumulate carbon in the soil. Bioenergy usually provides an irreversible mitigation effect by reducing carbon dioxide at source, but it may emit more carbon per unit of energy than fossil fuels unless biomass fuels are produced unsustainably.


    Biomass can play a major role in reducing the reliance on fossil fuels by making use of thermo-chemical conversion technologies. In addition, the increased utilization of biomass-based fuels will be instrumental in safeguarding the environment, generation of new job opportunities, sustainable development and health improvements in rural areas. The development of efficient biomass handling technology, improvement of agro-forestry systems and establishment of small and large-scale biomass-based power plants can play a major role in rural development. Biomass energy could also aid in modernizing the agricultural economy. A large amount of energy is expended in the cultivation and processing of crops like sugarcane, coconut, and rice which can met by utilizing energy-rich residues for electricity production. The integration of biomass-fuelled gasifiers in coal-fired power stations would be advantageous in terms of improved flexibility in response to fluctuations in biomass availability and lower investment costs. The growth of the bioenergy industry can also be achieved by laying more stress on green power marketing.

    Gopinath S
    +91 99161 29728