The Role of Biomass Energy in Net-Zero Buildings

The concept of biomass energy is still in its infancy in most parts of the world, but nevertheless, it does have an important role to play in terms of sustainability in general and net-zero buildings in particular. Once processed, biomass is a renewable source of energy that has amazing potential. But there is a lot of work to be done to exploit even a fraction of the possibilities that would play a significant role in providing our homes and commercial buildings with renewable energy.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), only about 5% of the total primary energy usage in the U.S. comes from biomass fuels. So there really is a way to go.

The Concept of Biomass Energy

Generally regarded as any carbon-based material including plants, food waste, industrial waste, reclaimed woody materials, algae, and even human and animal waste, biomass is processed to produce effective organic fuels.

The main sources of biomass include wood mills and furniture factories, landfill sites, horticultural centers, wastewater treatment plants, and areas where invasive and alien tree and grass species grow.

Whether converted into biogas or liquid biofuels, or burned as is, the biomass releases its chemical energy in the form of heat. Of course, it depends on what kind of material the biomass is. For instance, solid types including wood and suitable garbage can be burned without any need for processing. This makes up more than half the biomass fuels used in the U.S. Other types can be converted into biodiesel and ethanol.

Generally:

  • Biogas forms naturally in landfills when yard waste, food scraps, paper and so on decompose. It is composed mainly of carbon dioxide
  • Biogas can also be produced by processing animal manure and human sewage in digesters.
  • Biodiesel is produced from animal fats and vegetable oils including soybeans and palm oil.
  • Ethanol is made from various crops including sugar cane and corn that are fermented.

How Biomass Fuels Are Used

Ethanol has been used in vehicles for decades and ethanol-gasoline blends are now quite common. In fact, some racing drivers opt for high ethanol blends because they lower costs and improve quality. While the percentage of ethanol is substantially lower, it is now found in most gasoline sold in the U.S. Biodiesel can also be used in vehicles and it is also used as heating oil.

But in terms of their role in net-zero buildings:

  • Wood and wood processing waste is burned to heat buildings and to generate electricity.
  • In addition to being converted to liquid biofuels, various waste materials including some crops like sugar cane and corn can also be burned as fuel.
  • Garbage, in the form of yard, food, and wood waste, can be converted to biogas in landfills and anaerobic digesters. It can also be burned to generate electricity.
  • Human sewage and animal manure can be converted to biogas and burned as heating fuel.

Biomass as a Viable Clean Energy Source for Net-Zero Energy Buildings

Don’t rely on what I say, let’s look at some research, specifically, a study published just last year (2018) that deals with the development of net-zero energy buildings in Florida. It looked at the capacity of biomass, geothermal, hydrokinetic, hydropower, marine, solar, and wind power (in alphabetical order) to deliver renewable energy resources. More specifically, the study evaluated Florida’s potential to utilize various renewable energy resources.

Generating electricity from wind isn’t feasible in Florida because the average wind speeds are slow. The topography and hydrology requirements are inadequate and both hydrokinetic and marine energy resources are limited. But both solar and biomass offer “abundant resources” in Florida. Unlike most other renewable resources, the infrastructure and equipment required are minimal and suitable for use within building areas, and they are both compatible with the needs of net-zero energy.

The concept of net-zero buildings has, of course, been established by the World Green Building Council (GBC), which has set timelines of 2030 and 2050 respectively for new and all buildings to achieve net-zero carbon goals. Simplistically, what this means is that buildings, including our homes, will need to become carbon neutral, using only as much renewable energy as they can produce on site.

But nothing is simplistic when it comes to net-zero energy buildings (ZEB) ). Rather, different categories offer different boundaries in terms of how renewable energy strategies are utilized. These show that net-zero energy buildings are not all the same:

  • ZEB A buildings utilize strategies within the building footprint
  • ZEB B within the site of the property
  • ZEB C within the site but from off-site resources
  • ZEB D generate renewable energy off-site

While solar works for ZEB A and both solar and wind work for ZEB B buildings, biomass and biofuels are suitable for ZEB C and D buildings, particularly in Florida.

Even though this particular study is Florida-specific, it indicates the probability that the role of biomass energy will ultimately be limited, but that it can certainly help buildings reach a net-zero status.

There will be different requirements and benefits in different areas, but certainly professionals offering engineering solutions in Chicago, New York, London (Canada and the UK), and all the other large cities in the world will be in a position to advise whether it is feasible to use biomass rather than other forms of eco-friendly energy for specific buildings.

Biomass might offer a more powerful solution than many people imagine.

5 Things You Need to Know About Making Biodiesel at Home

Biodiesel, a petroleum-based diesel alternative produced by transesterification, works as efficiently as the commercially sold diesel and hardly requires any changes in the engine. For those who don’t know, biodiesel can be produced using any oil derived from plants such as soybean oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, etc. or from animal fats, like beef tallow and chicken tallow.

Over the past five years, due to the spike in fuel prices, people have started moving towards energy independence and have started small private biodiesel production units. According to reports, biodiesel made from useless tires could solve fuel security problems. Tires are a big problem as they create a lot of waste. We can turn this waste into useful oil and help not only the environment but also the economy.

If you are new to biodiesel production, some of the crucial things to know are:

1. Safety

This should not come as a surprise, safety rules are necessary to avoid the contamination of soil and water resources, fires, and personal poisoning.

Vegetable oil to biodiesel conversion requires methanol and lye. Both these chemicals are extremely dangerous since they are not only inflammable but can also cause neurological damage in case of excessive exposure.

A number of biodiesel related accidents and fires have been reported over the last few years. The incidents were a result of pure neglect. Some of the safety measures you should never forget to take are:

  • Don’t process inside your house.
  • Don’t keep any oily rags in the vicinity, they are the main source of spontaneous combustion leading to huge fires.
  • Don’t use paint stirrers or drills to mix up the biodiesel. It can cause a fire.
  • Don’t use blenders to make test batches, the ingredients can react with rubber seals.

All hazardous and dangerous products should be kept in an approved metal fire cabinet when not in use.

2. Environmental Regulations and Feedstock Collection

Currently, non-commercial and small-scale biodiesel production areas are not subjected to regulations by the Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP). However, if complaints or problems arise due to your biodiesel product, your plant might be subjected to discretionary enforcement. Moreover, you’ll need approval if you wish to increase the size of the production unit.

The disposal of by-products, on the other hand, requires the approval of the PADEP and should be done based on the latest guidelines. These guidelines can be obtained from your local Department of Environmental Protection.

Apart from following the rules and regulations, the availability of feedstock is crucial for the process.

One gallon of biodiesel requires at least one gallon of feedstock oil. To reduce production costs and to prevent food for fuel conflict, using inedible oils as a major source for biodiesel production is advised.

Usually, feedstock and feedstock oil are difficult to obtain, hence pre-planning is the key to produce the required amount of biodiesel on a regular basis. The collection and transportation of feedstock including used cooking oils are regulated by PADEP.

3. Time Commitment and Cost Requirements

New users usually underestimate the time requirements for proper and regular biodiesel production. While planning your biodiesel plant, make sure you allocate enough time to maintaining the equipment since improper maintenance lead to accidents. Feedstock collection and fuel processing also require a lot of time.

Other time-consuming tasks include handling and securing chemicals, air drying and water washing the fuel, testing the duel quality, and disposing of by-products.

Even though the cost requirements per gallon of biodiesel fuel process are much lower than the commercially sold diesel, there are a few things you need to take into consideration beforehand.

A detailed analysis of input costs versus the resultant value of fuel produced needs to be performed. The analysis should also include labor costs.

Investment in equipment and facility, feedstock transport and acquisition, chemicals, energy used and by-product disposal costs need to be accounted for as well.

4. Handling and Disposing By-products

During the production process, a considerable amount of crude glycerol is produced. Other processors that use water for biodiesel purification produced two gallons of waste for every gallon of biodiesel.

Handling this amount of waste can be taxing. It needs to be compliant with the PADEP rules and regulations. This not only requires more time but capital as well.

The crude glycerol by-product has 25 percent methanol as well as some hazardous waste. Converting it into marketable glycerin is not feasible on a small-scale since the evaporation of methanol cannot be contained.

The land application of methanol and glycerol are prohibited by PADEP. The disposal options from crude glycerol including methanol are:

  • Disposing of in a landfill.
  • Anaerobic digestion.
  • Industrial combustion.

You have to get special permission from PADEP for all the above processes.

5. Fuel Quality and Storage

Commercial testing of the fuel quality can rip you off since one batch can cost anything between $1000 and $1500. However, simpler fuel testing techniques like sediment testing, methanol testing, water content, viscosity, and cloud point testing can help you find a rough estimate of how good or bad the fuel is. These tests can also help you in finding what needs to be improved during the production process.

To store the fuel, use proper, biodiesel approved and rubber free containers. Using in-line filters while pumping the fuel in storage containers is the best practice. Usually, biodiesel produces use of 10-micron water-blocking filter or a 1-micron filter.

Petroleum approved containers also work well for storing biodiesel. Once in containers, the fuel should be kept in a dry, clean, and dark environment.

If you plan on storing the fuel for a longer time, using algaecide or fungicide additive is recommended since biodiesel is an organic liquid. Also, during cold seasons, the fuel gels, hence, blending in petroleum or anti-gelling additive is pretty important.

For best engine performance, you must use it within six months. If you can, limit the storage time to 3 months in warm and humid weather since the fuel can develop algae or fungus.

Bioenergy in Southeast Asia: Perspectives

Southeast Asia, with its abundant bioenergy resources, holds a strategic position in the global biomass energy atlas. There is immense biomass energy potential in Southeast Asian countries due to plentiful supply of diverse forms of biomass wastes, such as agricultural residues, woody biomass, animal wastes, municipal solid waste, etc. The rapid economic growth and industrialization in the region has accelerated the drive to implement the latest waste-to-energy technologies to tap the unharnessed potential of biomass resources.

Southeast_asia

Southeast Asia is a big producer of agricultural and wood products which, when processed in industries, produces large amounts of biomass residues. According to conservative estimates, the amount of biomass residues generated from sugar, rice and palm oil mills is more than 200-230 million tons per year which corresponds to cogeneration potential of 16-19 GW.

Rice mills in the region produce 38 million tonnes of rice husk as solid residue which is a good fuel for producing heat and power. Sugar industry is an integral part of the industrial scenario in Southeast Asia accounting for 7% of sugar production worldwide. Sugar mills in Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam generate 34 million tonnes of bagasse every year.  Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand account for 90% of global palm oil production leading to the generation of 27 million tonnes of waste per annum in the form of empty fruit bunches (EFBs), fibers and shells, as well as liquid effluent.

Woody biomass is a good energy resource due to presence of large number of forests in Southeast Asia. Apart from natural forests, non-industrial plantations of different types (e.g. coconut, rubber and oil palm plantations, fruit orchards, and trees in homesteads and gardens) have gained recognition as important sources of biomass. In addition, the presence of a large number of wood processing industries also generates significant quantity of wood wastes. The annual production of wood wastes in the region is estimated to be more than 30 million m3.

The prospects of biogas power generation are also high in the region, thanks to presence of well-established food-processing and dairy industries. Another important biomass resource is contributed by municipal solid wastes in heavily populated urban areas.  In addition, there are increasing efforts both commercially and promoted by governments to develop biomass energy systems for efficient biofuel production, e.g. bio-diesel from palm oil.

Biomass resources, particularly residues from forests, wood processing, agricultural crops and agro-processing, are under-utilised in Southeast Asian countries. There is an urgent need to utilize biomass wastes for commercial electricity and heat production to cater to the needs of the industries as well as urban and rural communities.

Southeast Asian countries are yet to make optimum use of the additional power generation potential from biomass waste resources which could help them to partially overcome the long-term problem of energy supply. Technologies for biomass utilization which are at present widely used in Southeast counties need to be improved towards best practice by making use of the latest trends in the biomass energy sector.

Trends in Utilization of Palm Kernel Shells

The palm kernel shells used to be initially dumped in the open thereby impacting the environment negatively without any economic benefit. However, over time, palm oil mills in Southeast Asia and elsewhere realized their brilliant properties as a fuel and that they can easily replace coal as an industrial fuel for generating heat and steam.

palm-kernel-shell-uses

Palm kernel shells is an abundant biomass resource in Southeast Asia

Major Applications

Nowadays, the primary use of palm kernel shells is as a boiler fuel supplementing the fibre which is used as primary fuel. In recent years kernel shells are extensively sold as alternative fuel around the world. Besides selling shells in bulk, there are companies that produce fuel briquettes from shells which may include partial carbonisation of the material to improve the combustion characteristics.

Palm kernel shells have a high dry matter content (>80% dry matter). Therefore the shells are generally considered a good fuel for the boilers as it generates low ash amounts and the low K and Cl content will lead to less ash agglomeration. These properties are also ideal for production of biomass for export.

As a raw material for fuel briquettes, palm shells are reported to have the same calorific characteristics as coconut shells. The relatively smaller size makes it easier to carbonise for mass production, and its resulting palm shell charcoal can be pressed into a heat efficient biomass briquette.

Although the literature on using oil palm shells (and fibres) is not as extensive as EFB, common research directions of using shells, besides energy, are to use it as raw material for light-weight concrete, fillers, activated carbon, and other materials. However, none of the applications are currently done on a large-scale. Since shells are dry and suitable for thermal conversion, technologies that further improve the combustion characteristics and increase the energy density, such as torrefaction, could be relevant for oil palm shells.

Torrefaction is a pretreatment process which serves to improve the properties of biomass in relation to the thermochemical conversion technologies for more efficient energy generation. High lignin content for shells affects torrefaction characteristics positively (as the material is not easily degraded compared to EFB and fibres).

Furthermore, palm oil shells are studied as feedstock for fast pyrolysis. To what extent shells are a source of fermentable sugars is still not known, however the high lignin content in palm kernel shells indicates that shells are less suitable as raw material for fermentation.

Future Outlook

The leading palm oil producers in the world should consider limiting the export of palm-kernel shells (PKS) to ensure supplies of the biomass material for renewable energy projects, in order to decrease dependency on fossil fuels. For example, many developers in Indonesia have expressed an interest in building palm kernel shell-fired power plants.

However, they have their concerns over supplies, as many producers prefer to sell their shells overseas currently. Many existing plants are facing problems on account of inconsistent fuel quality and increasing competition from overseas PKS buyers. PKS market is well-established in provinces like Sumatra and export volumes to Europe and North Asia as a primary fuel for biomass power plants is steadily increasing.

The creation of a biomass supply chain in palm oil producing countries may be instrumental in discouraging palm mills to sell their PKS stocks to brokers for export to foreign countries. Establishment of a biomass exchange in leading countries, like Indonesia, Malaysia and Nigeria, will also be a deciding factor in tapping the unharnessed potential of palm kernel shells as biomass resource.

The Costs and Benefits of Solar Panels: 6 Factors You Need to Consider

Solar panels are sliding into mainstream consumerism—and it’s posing a challenge. For instance, when you want to buy a car, there is a surge of first-hand information from friends and family who can walk you through the ins and outs of buying a vehicle.

Putting up solar panels on your roof, on the other hand, doesn’t carry the same level of hype from the people around you. What’s worse, they cost the same as a brand new car. To make matters dicier, the number of homeowners who’ve adapted to solar infrastructure isn’t all that many, too.

That aside, the stakes are high. You are, after all, going to install this on your roof. It’s also an adaptation you can’t easily shrug off as, “I’ll do better the next time if I make a mistake now.” Present figures tell us that solar installations are rising and the costs are becoming more feasible. But how much do we know about the said technology and are we personally ready to switch to natural energy?

Here are a few factors you can consider when it comes to solar panels:

Have you tried working on energy efficiency before turning to solar panels?

The whole point of using solar panels is for you to be able to store and conserve natural energy. But apart from that, have you started doing the little things to help better your energy consumption, like turning off the lights when they’re not in use or unplug the television cord when you’re not watching?

The extent of solar energy you need to come up with equates to how much you need. That said, it’s wiser for you to begin consuming your energy much more efficiently before turning to solar panels. You can begin by looking at efficiency upgrades starting with an energy audit before whipping up a blueprint.

Is your roof sturdy enough for solar panels?

This can make or break your solar panel situation. Additionally, if, for most of the day, your roof is covered in shade, then having to splurge a hefty amount for solar panels might not be worth it. You should consider that condition before marching onward.

Also, how sturdy is your roof? Even the lightest panels can be heavy for a decaying house covering. Make sure your roof is in structurally good shape. The usual warranty for solar installations can last up to 25 years and if your roof will need renovation in the next couple of months, you might want to rethink your strategy. Having it renovated first is often the smartest route versus putting up these panels straight away.

Moving forward, another factor is ownership. Many times, house dwellers can’t call the shots because they simply rent the place. A good solution to this is resorting to a community solar. This alternative lets more clients buy a stake in these installations and receive electricity bill credits.

Do you trust your installer?

Advertising comes easy nowadays. Don’t trust the first installer who hands you a flyer or presents you an ad. You have to remember that solar projects are a combination of electrical work and home improvement. References, credentials, and certifications are important. For instance, do they have accreditation under the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP)? It goes without saying that you wouldn’t hire an electrician to come to your home and shake things around when they don’t have sufficient experience. Consider an expert’s number of years in the industry.

It also comes as no surprise that these installations call for big checks. Shop around for installers and get as many quotes as you can before inking a deal. This can be challenging, but try looking for a company that will be available for you throughout your installation. While solar cells are stationary, you’re going to want to work with an installer who will emphatically extend their services even after your warranty period is over.

Which solar-type should you go for?

There are two prevailing solar sciences: the first one is photovoltaic. This technology produces electricity sourced from sunlight. Thermal, the second one makes use of sunlight to heat air or water for your everyday needs. At the end of the day, your context and living conditions help determine what you need the most. Despite that, those who use solar thermal are rare and qualified installers for this aren’t that many.

Buy or lease?

Before diving right into the world of solar panel usage, run a cost-benefit analysis. Is buying your own solar infrastructure the wisest decision you can make? Purchasing your costs more in the beginning, but you’ll have more evident benefits in the long run. On the other hand, renting grants you access to more affordable electricity bills. On top of that, you spend little to no money upfront in this arrangement. The tradeoff, however, is that there are limited monetary benefits for you.

When you rent your system, the company who you ink a deal with owns the infrastructure and you only shell out a certain fee for the electricity. When your rental period is over, they can either take the solar infrastructure back or sell it to you. But if you own your infrastructure, you can reap its advantages long after you’ve bought it. To snag a better deal, weight the lifecycle cost of both arrangements to see where you benefit the most. Factor in how much you earn at present and how much you see yourself earning in the near future. You have to put in a lot of research before you make a decision.

What should your contract contain?

As with any other contract, your welfare should be upheld as these last for long periods. The deal you ink should break down ownership, financing, and performance expectations. You should also factor in data-collecting technology if your infrastructure contains web-enabled devices. Determine who has access to it, if this applies. When there are things or contract segments you’re unsure of, it’s best to consult a legal advisor.

After everything’s been said and done, you’re not only cutting back on costs, you’re also contributing to a healthier planet.

Bioenergy in the Middle East

The Middle East region offers tremendous renewable energy potential in the form of solar, wind and bioenergy which has remained unexplored to a great extent. The major biomass producing Middle East countries are Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Jordan. Traditionally, biomass energy has been widely used in rural areas for domestic purposes in the Middle East. Since most of the region is arid/semi-arid, the biomass energy potential is mainly contributed by municipal solid wastes, agricultural residues and agro-industrial wastes.

MENA_Bioenergy

Municipal solid wastes represent the best bioenergy resource in the Middle East. The high rate of population growth, urbanization and economic expansion in the region is not only accelerating consumption rates but also accelerating the generation of municipal waste. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait rank in the top-ten worldwide in terms of per capita solid waste generation. The gross urban waste generation quantity from Middle East countries is estimated at more than 150 million tons annually.

In Middle East countries, huge quantity of sewage sludge is produced on daily basis which presents a serious problem due to its high treatment costs and risk to environment and human health. On an average, the rate of wastewater generation is 80-200 litres per person each day and sewage output is rising by 25 percent every year. According to estimates from the Drainage and Irrigation Department of Dubai Municipality, sewage generation in the Dubai increased from 50,000 m3 per day in 1981 to 400,000 m3 per day in 2006.

The food processing industry in Middle East produces a large number of organic residues and by-products that can be used as source of bioenergy. In recent decades, the fast-growing food and beverage processing industry has remarkably increased in importance in major countries of the Middle East.

Since the early 1990s, the increased agricultural output stimulated an increase in fruit and vegetable canning as well as juice, beverage, and oil processing in countries like Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. There are many technologically-advanced dairy products, bakery and oil processing plants in the region.

date-wastes

Date palm biomass is found in large quantities across the Middle East

Agriculture plays an important role in the economies of most of the countries in the Middle East.  The contribution of the agricultural sector to the overall economy varies significantly among countries in the region, ranging, for example, from about 3.2 percent in Saudi Arabia to 13.4 percent in Egypt. Cotton, dates, olives, wheat are some of the prominent crops in the Middle East

Large quantities of crop residues are produced annually in the region, and are vastly underutilised. Current farming practice is usually to plough these residues back into the soil, or they are burnt, left to decompose, or grazed by cattle. These residues could be processed into liquid fuels or thermochemically processed to produce electricity and heat in rural areas.

Energy crops, such as Jatropha, can be successfully grown in arid regions for biodiesel production. Infact, Jatropha is already grown at limited scale in some Middle East countries and tremendous potential exists for its commercial exploitation.

The Middle Eastern countries have strong animal population. The livestock sector, in particular sheep, goats and camels, plays an important role in the national economy of the Middle East countries. Many millions of live ruminants are imported into the Middle Eastern countries each year from around the world. In addition, the region has witnessed very rapid growth in the poultry sector. The biogas potential of animal manure can be harnessed both at small- and community-scale.

European Electricity Prices Drop 19% in Two Days Because of Wind Power

Americans are spending over $100 a month on electricity, leading to many poorer people having to go without when cash is running low. Anything that can be done to reduce costs will help people to live comfortably and meet their basic electricity needs. One way to do this is by increasing the production of wind energy. Fortunately, this is exactly what is happening across the European Union and latest figures confirm this.

renewable-energy-germany

AleaSoft is a forecaster of energy production and usage. They regularly do in depth analysis into the energy sector, so that governments and businesses can determine which source of energy is most effective at lowering costs and creating a cleaner atmosphere. Consistently, research from AleaSoft has shown that as wind power production increases, the overall price of electricity goes down. In the two days between October 7 and October 10 2019, the cost of the average electric bill fell by 19% and further analysis showed that this was as a direct result of investment in wind energy.

Change Between October 7 and October 10

There has been a general trend across the European continent suggesting a fall in prices. However, during the weekdays between Monday October 7 and Thursday October 10, the decline in costs was most significant. The average fall in the price of electricity markets was 19%, although there was significant variation between countries.

Most strikingly, Belgium was able to slash prices by 32%, cutting the cost of the average Belgian’s electricity bill by a third. Other electricity markets showed less of a price fall, such as in Spain and Germany were costs fell by just 7%. Wherever you happen to live in Europe, however, the news is hugely positive. Any drop in prices helps ordinary and low income people to power their homes without feeling restricted.

What is Driving the Fall in Price?

A fall in electricity costs can be for many reasons, so AleaSoft’s research delved into the possible causes of such a significant decline in the energy markets. The sudden drop in prices came at the same time that wind energy production has been ramped up. When wind turbine usage fell, electricity market prices increased. The correlation is so close that this is the only reasonable explanation for the fluctuations in price. 

14% of energy provided in the European Union is produced by wind farms, but 95% of new energy source investments are put towards renewables. This suggests that the overall percentage of electricity from wind will rise exponentially. The UK, Ireland, Germany, and Denmark are the main countries where wind farms are located.

Improved Maintenance Techniques

One of the reasons that European countries are so capable of building new wind farms is improved maintenance techniques. The aerial platform is the easiest way to clean and repair wind turbines, so a dedication to the aerial life has helped to provide turbines which function more efficiently. New generations of aerial lift equipment, skylifts and other aerial platforms are making it easier and cheaper to produce wind power consistently and over long periods of time.

Wind turbines have a reputation of being inefficient. Many believe that their construction is harmful to the environment and that they spend most of their lives switched off and inactive. This is no longer the case, however, and the spike in wind energy production detected by AleaSoft supports the view that maintenance is improving and so too are the capabilities of wind farms.

Even if the environment isn’t a priority, all homeowners long for cheaper electricity. This new report showing the direct link between wind power and lower costs is a great sign. It should boost investment in the technology and ensure a long term and consistent decline in energy costs, as well as a cleaner environment.

Biodiesel Program in India – An Analysis

The Government of India approved the National Policy on Biofuels in December 2009. The biofuel policy encouraged the use of renewable energy resources as alternate fuels to supplement transport fuels (petrol and diesel for vehicles) and proposed a target of 20 percent biofuel blending (both biodiesel and bioethanol) by 2017. The government launched the National Biodiesel Mission (NBM) identifying Jatropha curcas as the most suitable tree-borne oilseed for biodiesel production.

Jatropha_curcas

The Planning Commission of India had set an ambitious target covering 11.2 to 13.4 million hectares of land under Jatropha cultivation by the end of the 11th Five-Year Plan. The central government and several state governments are providing fiscal incentives for supporting plantations of Jatropha and other non-edible oilseeds. Several public institutions, state biofuel boards, state agricultural universities and cooperative sectors are also supporting the biofuel mission in different capacities.

State of the Affairs

The biodiesel industry in India is still in infancy despite the fact that demand for diesel is five times higher than that for petrol. The government’s ambitious plan of producing sufficient biodiesel to meet its mandate of 20 percent diesel blending by 2012 was not realized due to a lack of sufficient Jatropha seeds to produce biodiesel.

Currently, Jatropha occupies only around 0.5 million hectares of low-quality wastelands across the country, of which 65-70 percent are new plantations of less than three years. Several corporations, petroleum companies and private companies have entered into a memorandum of understanding with state governments to establish and promote Jatropha plantations on government-owned wastelands or contract farming with small and medium farmers. However, only a few states have been able to actively promote Jatropha plantations despite government incentives.

Key Hurdles

The unavailability of sufficient feedstock and lack of R&D to evolve high-yielding drought tolerant Jatropha seeds have been major stumbling blocks. In addition, smaller land holdings, ownership issues with government or community-owned wastelands, lackluster progress by state governments and negligible commercial production of biodiesel have hampered the efforts and investments made by both private and public sector companies.

The non-availability of sufficient feedstock and lack of R&D to evolve high-yielding drought tolerant Jatropha seeds have been major stumbling blocks in biodiesel program in India. In addition, smaller land holdings, ownership issues with government or community-owned wastelands, lackluster progress by state governments and negligible commercial production of biodiesel have hampered the efforts and investments made by both private and public sector companies.

Another major obstacle in implementing the biodiesel programme has been the difficulty in initiating large-scale cultivation of Jatropha. The Jatropha production program was started without any planned varietal improvement program, and use of low-yielding cultivars made things difficult for smallholders. The higher gestation period of biodiesel crops (3–5 years for Jatropha and 6–8 years for Pongamia) results in a longer payback period and creates additional problems for farmers where state support is not readily available.

The Jatropha seed distribution channels are currently underdeveloped as sufficient numbers of processing industries are not operating. There are no specific markets for Jatropha seed supply and hence the middlemen play a major role in taking the seeds to the processing centres and this inflates the marketing margin.

Biodiesel distribution channels are virtually non-existent as most of the biofuel produced is used either by the producing companies for self-use or by certain transport companies on a trial basis. Further, the cost of biodiesel depends substantially on the cost of seeds and the economy of scale at which the processing plant is operating.

The lack of assured supplies of feedstock supply has hampered efforts by the private sector to set up biodiesel plants in India. In the absence of seed collection and oil extraction infrastructure, it becomes difficult to persuade entrepreneurs to install trans-esterification plants.

Applications of Epoxy Resin in Clean Energy Sector

Epoxy resin is a kind of reactive prepolymer and polymer that contains epoxide groups. It is important to note that epoxy resin is different from other polyester resins in terms of curing. Unlike other resins, instead of using a catalyst as a curing agent, it is cured by an agent known as the hardener. It possesses many desirable properties such as high tensile strength, high adhesive strength, high corrosion resistance, and excellent moisture & chemical resistance. It is also resistant to fatigue, has a long shelf life, and has good electrical and insulating properties. The ability of epoxy resins to be used in various combinations and reinforcements makes it the foundation of a plethora of industries, including clean energy systems.

Applications of Epoxy Resins

Because of the versatile properties of epoxy resins, it is used widely in adhesives, potting, encapsulating electronics, and printed circuit boards. It is also used in the form of matrices for composites in the aerospace industries. Epoxy composite laminates are commonly used for repairing both composite as well as steel structures in marine applications.

Due to its high reactivity, epoxy resin is preferred in repairing boats that have been damaged by impact. Its low shrinking properties and ease of fabrication make it well suited for many tooling applications such as metal-shaping molds, vacuum-forming molds, jigs, patterns etc.

Use of Epoxy Resins in Clean Energy

A variety of industries have been actively trying to find a path that’s moving towards a society that puts less load on the the environment and also contributes towards reducing the carbon footprint. The accelerated use of epoxy resins in generating renewable energy has lead to a rise in its production demand. This is why the epoxy resin market is projected to witness a high demand and growth rate by 2022. Here are some of the sectors contributing to the production of clean energy and how they utilize epoxy resin for their functioning:

  • Solar Energy

The harnessing of solar energy dates back to 700 B.C, when people used a magnifying glass to focus the sun’s rays to produce fire. Today solar power is a vigorously developing energy source around the globe. It not only caters to the rising energy requirements but also the need to protect the environment from the exploitation of exhaustible energy resources.

A piece of average solar equipment endures intense environmental conditions such as scorching heat, UV radiations, bitter cold,  pouring rain, hail, storms, and turbulent winds. To withstand such conditions, the sealing and mounting application of epoxy resins increase the environmental tolerance of the solar equipment.

With their high mechanical strength, impressive dimensional stability and excellent adhesion properties, they are used to protect the solar panels from a wide range of temperatures. Epoxies are cheap, less labor-intensive and easy to apply.

  • Wind Energy

The global wind industry has quickly emerged as one of the largest sources of renewable energy around the world. The wind energy in the U.S. alone grew by 9% in 2017 and today is the largest source for generating clean energy in the country. With such a tremendous demand for wind power, the need for fabricating bigger and better wind turbine blades is also rising. The industry is in a dearth of long-lasting blades, that endure the harsh climatic conditions and wear tear and are able to collect more wind energy at a time.

Sealing and mounting application of epoxy resins increase the environmental tolerance of the solar equipment

Epoxy thermosets are used for making the blades more durable because of their high tensile strength and high creep resistance. Mixing of epoxy resins with various toughening agents and using them on the blades have shown positive results towards making the blades corrosion resistant and fatigue-proof.

  • Hydropower

Hydropower is an essential source of renewable and clean energy. As the hydropower industry is developing rapidly, the solution for protecting the hydropower concrete surfaces against low temperatures and lashing water flow has also been looked into.

As a solution to this issue, epoxy mortar, a mixture of epoxy resins, binder, solvent, mineral fillers, and some additives has proven to be the most effective material used for surface protection. Owing to the properties like non-permeability, adhesive strength, anti-erosive nature, and non-abrasiveness, epoxy mortar paste has been used as a repairing paste in the hydropower industry.

Over the last few decades, epoxy resins have contributed immensely in the maintenance and protection of clean energy sources, helping them to become more efficient and productive.

Final Thoughts

While many argue that factors like a relatively high cost when compared to petroleum-based resins and conventional cement-mortar alternatives has affected the epoxy resin market growth, the fact remains that epoxy resin never fails to deliver top-notch and unmatchable results in the areas of application.

Major Considerations in Biopower Projects

In recent years, biopower (or biomass power) projects are getting increasing traction worldwide, however there are major issues to be tackled before setting up a biopower project. There are three important steps involved in the conversion of biomass wastes into useful energy. In the first step, the biomass must be prepared for the energy conversion process. While this step is highly dependent on the waste stream and approach, drying, grinding, separating, and similar operations are common.

In addition, the host facility will need material handling systems, storage, metering, and prep-yard systems and biomass handling equipment. In the second step, the biomass waste stream must be converted into a useful fuel or steam. Finally, the fuel or steam is fed into a prime mover to generate useful electricity and heat.

One of the most important factors in the efficient utilization of biomass resource is its availability in close proximity to a biomass power project. An in-depth evaluation of the available quantity of a given agricultural resource should be conducted to determine initial feasibility of a project, as well as subsequent fuel availability issues. The primary reasons for failure of biomass power projects are changes in biomass fuel supply or demand and changes in fuel quality.

Fuel considerations that should be analyzed before embarking on a biomass power project include:

  • Typical moisture content (including the effects of storage options)
  • Typical yield
  • Seasonality of the resource
  • Proximity to the power generation site
  • Alternative uses of the resource that could affect future availability or price
  • Range of fuel quality
  • Weather-related issues
  • Percentage of farmers contracted to sell residues

Accuracy is of great importance in making fuel availability assumptions because miscalculations can greatly impact the successful operation of biomass power projects. If biomass resource is identifies as a bottle-neck in the planning stage, a power generation technology that can handle varying degrees of moisture content and particle size can be selected.

Technologies that can handle several fuels in a broad category, such as agricultural residues, provide security in operation without adversely affecting combustion efficiency, operations and maintenance costs, emissions levels, and reliability.

Consistent and reliable supply of biomass is crucial for any biomass project

Identification of potential sources of biomass fuel can be one of the more challenging aspects of a new biomass energy project. There are two important issues for potential biomass users:

  • Consistent and reliable biomass resource supply to the facility
  • Presence of harvesting, processing and supply infrastructure to provide biomass in a consistent and timely manner

Biomass as an energy source is a system of interdependent components. Economic and technical viability of this system relies on a guaranteed feedstock supply, effective and efficient conversion technologies, guaranteed markets for the energy products, and cost-effective distribution systems.

The biomass system is based on the following steps:

  • Biomass harvesting (or biomass collection of non-agricultural waste)
  • Preparation of biomass as feedstock
  • Conversion of biomass feedstock into intermediate products.
  • Transformation of intermediates into final energy and other bio-based products
  • Distribution and utilization of biofuels, biomass power and bio-based products.