Biomass Sector in India – Problems and Challenges

Biomass power plants in India are based mostly on agricultural wastes. Gasifier-based power plants are providing a great solution for off-grid decentralized power and are lighting homes in several Indian states. While for providing grid-based power 8-15 MW thermal biomass power plants are suitable for Indian conditions, they stand nowhere when compared to power plants being set up in Europe which are at least 20 times larger.

Energy from biomass is reliable as it is free of fluctuation unlike wind power and does not need storage to be used in times of non-availability as is the case with solar. Still it is not the preferred renewable energy source till now, the primary reason that may be cited is the biomass supply chain. Biomass availability is not certain for whole year. Biomass from agriculture is available only after harvesting period which can stretch only for 2-3 months in a year. So there is a need to procure and then store required quantity of biomass within this stipulated time.

Some of the Indian states leading the pack in establishing biomass-based power supply are Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra. Ironically, states having agricultural-based economy have not properly been able to utilize the opportunity and figure low on biomass energy utilization. Only Uttar Pradesh has utilized large part of the biomass potential in north Indian States and that is mainly due to the sugarcane industry and the co-generation power plants. Interestingly Punjab and Haryana don’t have much installed capacity in comparison to potential even though tariff rates are more than Rs. 5 per unit, which are better than most of the states. This can be attributed to the fact that these tariffs were implemented very recently and it will take time to reflect the capacity utilization.

Table: Biomass Potential and Installed Capacity in Key Indian States

State

Power Potential (MWe) Installed Capacity (by 2011)

Tariff

Punjab 2413.2 74.5

@ Rs 5.25 per unit, (2010-11)

Uttar Pradesh 1594.3 592.5 @ Rs 4.70
Haryana 1120.8 35.8 @Rs 5.24 per unit
Rajasthan 1093.5 73.3

@ Rs 4.72/unit water cooled (2010-11)

Maharashtra 1014.2 403 @ Rs 4.98 (2010-11)
Madhya Pradesh 841.7 1.0

@ Rs 3.33 to 5.14/unit paise for 20 years with escalation of 3-8 paise

Karnataka 631.9 365.18

@ Rs 3.66 per unit (PPA signing date)

Rs 4.13 (10th year)

Andhra Pradesh 625 363.25 @ Rs 4.28 per unit  (2010-11)
Gujarat 457.7 0.5

@ Rs 4.40 per unit (with accelerated depreciation)

Chhattisgarh 248.5 231.9 @Rs 3.93 per unit (2010-11)
Kerala 195.9 @ Rs 2.80 per unit escalated at 5% for
five years (2000-01
Source: Biomass Atlas by IISc, Bangalore and MNRE website

The electricity generation could be cheaper than coal if biomass could be sourced economically but ssome established biomass power plants tend to misuse the limit of coal use provided to them (generally 10-15% of biomass use) to keep it operational in lean period of biomass supply. They are not able to run power plants solely on biomass economically which can be attributed to :

  • Biomass price increases very fast after commissioning of power project and therefore government tariff policy needs an annual revision
  • Lack of mechanization in Indian Agriculture Sector
  • Defragmented land holdings
  • Most of the farmers are small or marginal

Government policy is the biggest factor behind lack of investment in biopower sector in states with high biomass potential. Defragmented nature of agricultural lands do not allow high mechanization which results in reduction of efficiency and increase in procurement cost.

Transportation cost constitutes a significant portion of  the costs associated with the establishment and running of biomass power plants. There is need of processing in form of shredding the biomass onsite before transportation to increase its density when procurement is done from more than a particular distance. While transportation in any kind or form from more than 50 Km becomes unviable for a power plant of size 10-15MW. European power plants are importing their biomass in form of pellets from other countries to meet the requirement of the huge biopower plants.

Not all the biomass which is regarded as agri-waste is usually a waste; part of it is used as fuel for cooking while some part is necessary to go back to soil to retain the soil nutrients. According to conservative estimates, only two-third of agricultural residues could be procured for power production.

And as human mentality goes waste is nothing but a heap of ash for the farmer till someone finds a way to make profit out of it, and from there on the demand of waste increases and so its price. Though there is nothing wrong in transferring benefits to the farmers and providing them a competitive cost of the agri-waste but operations becomes increasingly unviable with time. A robust business model is necessary to motivate local entrepreneurs to take up the responsibility of supplying biomass to processing facilities. Collection centres covering 2-3 villages can be set up to facilitate decentralization of biomass supply mechanism. Biomass power plant operators may explore the possibility of using energy crops as a substitute for crop wastes, in case of crop failure. Bamboo and napier grass can be grown on marginal and degraded lands.

 

About Achal Gupta

Achal Gupta is working as Manager (Biomass Procurement) with Harvest Energy Pvt. Ltd, Bhopal (India) since April 2011. He is a Post Graduate in Forestry Management from Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal. Achal is In the process of establishing biomass supply chain for 6 upcoming power plants each of 10MW capacity in state of Madhya Pradesh. He can be reached at achal.contact@gmail.com
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38 Responses to Biomass Sector in India – Problems and Challenges

  1. Amar says:

    Great post! I have had the exact same experience in Gujarat (length and breadth of it). West Bengal is ofcourse the ultimate entrepreneurial challenge. Too good to be true kind of resources but complete lack of any cooperative infrastructure or attitude. But I am plodding on..

    All the best..

    • Achal says:

      Aman, on which Biomass are you working in Gujarat? I guess it should be cotton. We are also targetting cotton stalks in Madhya Pradesh as primary fuel for our power plants. These above experiences are just from the 2 months of biomass procurement test piloting done by us, a lot of challenges are yet to come.

  2. Susanta Kumar Barik says:

    Mr Achal,
    It is nice to get an synthesized overview of the Biomass industry. However, the issues highlighted are limited and is not that simple to summarize. there are institutional factors associated, local politics, market networking of suppliers, monopolization of market in some areas, availability of biomass, seasonality do impose a challenge, Govt initiatives and encouragements (eg renewable energy forum).

    Biomass based power plants is facing a tough time to run and very apprehensive of the future. The EIA would probably redone to reassess the plant survival. It is just an addition to your findings.
    susanta (IIFM-1999 batch)

  3. Supratim Bhowmick says:

    Nice post. I am in the field of speciality chemicals, fuel and fireside additives to be specific. Most of the biomass fired power plants experience moderate to severe fireside deposit causing immense loss in terms of reduced capacity, forced shut down, cleaning, tube failures, etc. After many years of trial now I have a better idea about the problem. I also have solutions that really work. If that is also your problem please do get in touch with me.

  4. Anushka says:

    Great post!Let me share my views.
    I am presently working with AREVA RENEWABLES.Here we work on various new technologies related to biomass.As the company’s business is mostly abroad so we design acoording to their parameters.Our technical know how goes for them at the end of the day.Sitting on chair,thinking for their growing economy hits somewhere deep down what about my economy?I belong to punjab and there its like huge piles of biomass but somehow i am not able to help my country in some way.I just need one right way to go and make the REAL CHANGE.I hope to get it soon.

    • Salman Zafar says:

      Thanks for sharing your views Anushka. It is indeed sad that tremendous biomass energy potential still remains untapped across the country. Even the high-profile biomass power plants that came up in India in recent years are struggling due to poor planning, lack of supply chain, infrastructure etc.

    • Bikramjeet Singh says:

      I am from Punjab too.. I need your help in this sector. I have 6 acre land in Punjab to invest for in Punjab (Bathinda disst.).. Here we can get rice straw very easily at high quantities at reliable prices. If you can invest in this sector and want to invest money in punjab, you can contact me at bikramjeetc@gmail.com or +91 98763-32104

      I want to help nature to sustain itself.. We are entering to very last steps to ruin our nature!!

    • Ravish says:

      Dear Anushka
      we are in the business of manufacturing a renewable product called as Pellets which is made from agro waste such as bagasse, sawdust, mustard stem etc. we have put up a plant in roorkee uttarakhand to manufacture pellets to be used as green fuel. this product is carbon neutral and has no SO2, NOX and hence is pollution free to make the environment clean.
      your require more details please write to me.

    • I feel like Solar shall take a Lead to address Transport Issues and so BioEnergy can be more Focussed on addressing Power Shortages & in HouseHold Uses for Eg. in GreenBuildings. 🙂

  5. Sameera27 says:

    Hi, thank you for this wonderful post. Makes an entrepreneur like myself think a little differently to overcome such hurdles.

  6. Good information.
    I am a new entrepreneur willing to start a Hybrid Solar biomass power plant. Can any one share their experience on how to kick start the process?

  7. GOWTHAM NARALASETTI says:

    Iam having agricultural waste of daily 6 to 8 tons continously in year (365 days) can u pleas suggest me how much capacity of biopower plant I can install……

  8. azhar khan says:

    Wow great..
    And all the best.

  9. Row says:

    Regarding your table, the source is the Biomass Atlas but the value for potential doesn’t match what is given in the source. Can you just clarify that for me please?

  10. Harsh says:

    Dear Sir,

    We are the manufacturer of Biomass Pellets and Wood Pellets.
    I want to export my product in all over the world.
    Please kind help me to sell my product.

    Thanking you,

    From,
    Harsh Thacker (India)
    +91 88 666 91 885

  11. Pingback: Strategy to Validate Biomass Supply Chain in India and Identify Reliable Suppliers | India Solar, Wind, Biomass, Biofuels - EAI

  12. satya says:

    who are the input Raw materials suppliers to Biomass gas plants in india

  13. Virendra Gautam says:

    Hi , I am just working on the high kcal/kg biomass fuel. Need inputs from all of you on the same.
    The other important aspect is of ash disposal . Not sure what is the correct way of doing the same . Is any agency working on the same to leverage value out of that.

    Virendra
    9654366525

  14. Rohit Kothari says:

    Respected Sir,

    Thanks for the wonderful post. I wish to know whether there is any mechanism available through which we can convert household wastes of all/most kinds into any form of energy.

  15. Mohd. Imran Khan says:

    HI to respected Salman jafar Sir and Everyone,

    First i will wish to congregates to Mr, Achal Gupta Sir, MD of M/s. Harvest Energy Pvt. Ltd. for establishment biomass power Plant project at Khargone and Barwani Disst. of MP State,
    after that Myself Imran Khan from Khargone and i am also supplier of Biomass Fuels like Bagasse and pressmate, i have approximately 5000 tonne bagasse (Dry) and our annual turn over of bagasse is near about about 10000 tonne. i am also interested to Supply bagasse to your Khargone and barwani Plant.if u need same please contact.

    Thanking you and assuring you our best services always.
    Regard’s
    M. Imran Khan
    9977870793

  16. suresh babu says:

    sir,
    We have biomass plant at andhra pradesh and the cost of fuel is very high and need some help in procurement system in season time ., pl advise

  17. Supratim Bhowmick says:

    Dear Mr. Zafar,

    I will not be able to help you with procurement of fuel. But I would like to draw your attention towards another problem which is moderate to severe in biomass fired boilers. And that is fireside deposit. If you have that problem I do not have to explain you what it is and how it reduces your boiler efficiency. I have been working in the field of fireside chemical treatment for the last few years. If you need help in this respect do get in touch with me.

    Supratim Bhowmick
    Mob: 09330325566

  18. Kamal Deep Sharma says:

    I want to establish a Biomas brackets manufacturing plant in bhopal can anyone give me any suggestion for this.

  19. Pingback: Large-scale Power Production from Biomass | EcoIdeaz

  20. rajendra says:

    Sir I need the information of installation changes of biomass briket formation

  21. sunandan kaushik says:

    Iam having agricultural waste of daily 6 to 8 tons continously in year (365 days) can u pleas suggest me how much capacity of biopower plant I can install……I am from haryana too.. I need your help in this sector. I have 7 acre land in haryna to invest for in Haryana (Kurkshetra disst.).. Here we can get rice straw very easily at high quantities at reliable prices. If you can invest in this sector and want to invest money in Haryana, you can contact me at………
    sunandan85 @gmail.com

    • R L Hada says:

      It is very small quantity.Our daily consumption is 90/100 tons for 20 TPH Boiler Start with trading/Palleting work

  22. saurab says:

    Bio pellets information requested

  23. I want start in Agra, plz help

  24. satyam malviya says:

    wheat straw and rice husk is have sufficient density for pallet ,i want to installed this plant in MP Hoshangabad disst.

    please help any suggestion for min density of pallate??

    satyam malviya
    sk2204mech@gmail.com

  25. Ravinder kumar says:

    i need to know how much biomass need for generation of one megawatt electricity
    in biomass electricity plant. if any body could tell me about this i shall be very grateful for him.

  26. P Pipalia says:

    We are an NGO based out of Maharashtra running free meal seva at 50+ towns to the underprivileged. Can you help us with details about sourcing Cotton Stalk, Saw Dust or Soyabean waste for briquette manufacturing. This is entirely for our own consumption in free meal canteens. We are planning to set up a plant very soon. Any help regarding suppliers of raw materials in this will be highly appreciated

    Kindly email at premalpipalia@gmail.com or 9321490260

    Thanks in advance for the help.

  27. Kunal Patel says:

    I Want To Start A 2Ton/H Biomass Pellet Plant In Nagpur (Maharashtra), Can U Please Consult Me.

  28. ABHISHEK ARORA says:

    I want to establish a Bio pellets manufacturing plant in haryan can u give me any suggestion for this.Please share some information regarding challanges, profitability and future scope of this business.

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