Punjab looks to biomass power plants to tackle stubble problem
The 10 operational plants have an aggregate capacity 72 mega watt (MW) and use 5.50 lakh tonnes of paddy straw, which is around 2.75 per cent of the total paddy stubble produced in Punjab annually.
Struggling to curb the menace of stubble burning, Punjab is now looking towards biomass energy plants to utilise tonnes of paddy straw to produce power in the state. Experts believe that biomass power generation will not only solve the problem of stubble burning, but will also help check pollution by thermal power plants. Currently, there are 10 biomass plants in the state, with four more under construction.
The 10 operational plants have an aggregate capacity 72 mega watt (MW) and use 5.50 lakh tonnes of paddy straw, which is around 2.75 per cent of the total paddy stubble produced in Punjab annually. All these plants run under Punjab Energy Development Agency (PEDA).
PEDA officials said that if the state wants to utilise all its stubble it must set up several such plants with an aggregate capacity of around couple of thousand mega watts.
Punjab produces around 20 million tonnes paddy stubble, which is not popular as cattle fodder because of huge availability of wheat stubble (18 millions tonnes) from around 35 lakh hectares under wheat cultivation. So, around 70 per cent of paddy stubble ends up being burnt in the fields.
“Biomass power projects are environment friendly due to relatively lower CO2 and particulate emissions and they replace fossil fuels such as coal,” said a senior officer in PEDA, adding that because of huge availability of stubble locally it is quite a cheaper option for a state like Punjab.
“It will also generate income for farmers, who will sell it to the plants, and also create employment opportunities for collecting and transporting stubble to the plants,” he added.
PEDA general manager M P Singh said: “We have been promoting setting up of more biomass plants as 72 MW plants are already operational and four plants with nearly 45 MW plants are under construction along with Bio-CNG plant at Sangrur.”
He added: “If we utilise entire stubble produced in the state, it can produce about 1000 MW of electricity and the government is pushing it a lot. PEDA is helping sell power produced in these plants.”
“We are ready to purchase as much green power as possible. Already, we have been buying solar power from PEDA commissioned solar power plants ,” said a senior PSPCL officer adding that Punjab with an annual power generation capacity of 13,900 MW is a power surplus state, but now government should shift its focus and replace thermal power generation with green power generation.
Setting up a 5 MW biomass power plant costs Rs 30 crore. “Like the power purchase agreements (PPAs) with several private thermal plants, we need PPAs with biomass plants as this power is much cheaper than that being purchased from private thermal units in Punjab,” said a senior officer in Punjab State Power Corporation Limited.