Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Biomass Power Generation


 Q 1.     What is biomass?

Ans.     Biomass is organic material of recent origin that can be used as a source of energy. It generally includes crops and other plants, as well as agricultural, forest, sawdust and agro-industrial waste.

 Q 2.     What is biomass power?

Ans.     Electricity that is produced as a result of utilizing surplus biomass sources into energy is considered biomass power. Biomass combusted in a boiler produces steam. This steam drives a turbine generator that produces electricity. This electricity will be fed into the high voltage transmission grid to be transported to end-users.

Q 3.     Why produce power from biomass?

Ans.     Generating power through the use of biomass represents the cost-effective and cleanest way to provide renewable electricity in biomass potential regions with high levels of biomass resources and its processing activity.  Furthermore, use of this resource helps become more energy independent and use of a locally derived fuel provides employment and direct economic benefit to local communities.

Q 4.     What is the potential of power generation from biomass ?

Ans.     The estimated power potential from surplus agro residues in the country is about 17,000 MW.  In addition about 5000 MW of power can be produced, if the sugar mills in the country switch over to modern techniques of cogeneration.

Q 5.     Do biomass power generating units help combat global warming?

Ans.     Yes, electricity produced from biomass is considered to be carbon neutral and therefore helps to combat global warming. The CO2 that the facility will release would have been produced as the plants and trees naturally decomposed in the forest without the benefit of electricity production.

Q 6.     What are the economic benefits of biomass power generation facilities?

Ans.     Biomass power generating units produce a significant economic benefit to the area surrounding the plant. A 10 MW biomass power project can create approximately employment for 100 workers during the 18-month construction phase, 25 full-time workers employed in the operation of the facility, and 35 persons in the collection, processing, and transportation of biomass material.

Q 7.     What are the types of biomass used in a biomass power generation facility?

Ans.     The principal source of biomass are rice husk, woody biomass such as Julie flora, casurina, other agro residues such as stalks/cobs/shells, sugarcane trash, cotton stalks, mustard stalks, groundnut shells etc.

Q 8.     How long does it take to develop a biomass power project?

Ans: If there are no issues in fuel collection , investors and fund, then it is possible to develop a project in a fast track mode in 18 months period. 

Q 9.     What    is    the    average    estimated    (i) capital cost,  (ii) cost of electricity generation and (iii) PLF for  Biomass   Power and bagasse Co-generation Project ?

Ans. The capital cost of installation of bagasse based co-generation projects is in the range of Rs. 4.5 to Rs. 5.0 Crore/MW depending upon technical, financial and operating parameters. Costs of generation are expected to vary from Rs. 3.25 to 3.75/kwh, depending upon the plant load factor, and interest on term loans. The PLF of bagasse cogen projects is about 45% - 55%.  In case of biomass power plants, the capital cost of installation are Rs.4.5 to 5.0 Crore/MW, depending upon boiler pressure and capacity, costs of generation around Rs. 3.50 to Rs. 4.00/kwh.  The PLF of biomass  power projects is about 70% - 75%.

Q 10.   Is EPC contract a better approach for implementing biomass projects?

Ans:     EPC approach is suitable, when the project owner/developer/investor is not having core expertise in biomass project development. But, in general EPC contract is 10 to 20 % more expensive than separate procurement and management. The exact approach to be selected depends on several aspects of the project and it is difficult to generalize.

Q 11.   Is financing a major barrier for biomass projects?

Ans:     There are several banks including IREDA willing to give loans at reasonable interest rate. Although debt financing is the most common approach, there are several equity investors looking for good projects to invest.

Q 12.   What is the operational life time of a biomass power plant?

Ans: If properly maintained, biomass power plants can run for around 20 years. It is possible to extend the lifetime by another 10 years by major rehabilitation.

Q 13.   Is it true that most of the biomass projects are not feasible?

Ans:     With high oil price, increased competition among equipments suppliers, and with CDM revenue, preferential tariff, Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) and Renewable Energy Certificates biomass projects are an attractive investment option. However, there are still many barriers and risks in project development.

Q 14.   Do you recommend using second hand equipments for biomass power plants to reduce the cost?

Ans:     If you manage to get reliable equipment at very low cost, then it is also one of the options. But a very extensive study is needed before making the final decision, as the risks are high. No government subsidy is provided for second hand equipment.

Q 15.   Is there any bagasse power plant operating using very high pressure of around 100 bar in the country?

Ans: There are about two dozen sugar mills using 110 bar boiler pressure and few sugar mills going for 130 bar boiler pressure for export of surplus power to the grid. 

Q 16.   What is the Status of Biomass Power and Bagasse Co - generation in India?

Ans. The Ministry has been implementing a scheme for promotion of Grid Interactive Power Generation Projects based on Renewable Energy Sources which includes projects based on biomass. In last 15 years, a cumulative capacity of 2633 MW has been commissioned, which comprises of 1636 MW Bagasse Cogeneration Projects and 997 MW of Biomass Combustion Projects. The States which have taken a leadership position in implementation of biomass power projects are Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Chattishgarh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan. The capacity of grid connected Biomass Power Project varies from 8-12 MW.

Q 17.   What is the requirement of land for a 10 MW biomass power project?

Ans. In totality for a 7.5 to 12 MW biomass power generation units, a minimum of 10 acres of land is required. Depending on the cost of land in the different areas, land to an extent of 20 acres should be identified for fuel storage.  Also in view of storing the fuel in vicinity of the plant, which make more economical more the land more the storage and less the cost on fuel transportation.

Q 18.   What is the Water  requirement for 10 MW biomass power project?

Ans:     For a plant capacity ranging from 10 MW to 12 MW the water requirement shall be of 60-70 M3 / Hr. Taking a margin of safety it can assumed that water requirement shall be upto to the tune of 70 Ms/hr. for a water cooled condensing steam turbine plant. In case of biomass plants using air cooled condenser the water requirement will be on lesser side (10-15m3/hr.)

Q 19.   What is the minimum size of project?

Ans:     The economic viability for the capacity below 6 MW is not sustainable.  However, Biomass Power Plant in the initial set up phase in India had an installed capacity of 6 to 7.5 MW.  The right kind of capacity from economic viability point of view should be between 7.5 to 10 MW.  Beyond this capacity, the logistics of managing raw material would be difficult. The project size depends on the fuel (biomass) availability near the project location. For a capacity of 10 MW and for a biomass fuel with average gross calorific value of 3150 Kcal/kg, the total fuel requirement is around 1.0 Lakh / annum. The collection and storage of biomass is the critical activity for any biomass project to succeed.

Q 20.   Whether the Flyash Discharged from Biomass Power Plant serves any purpose?

Ans, The Flyash Discharged could be used in The Manufacture of Bricks for Construction of Buildings and Civil Works or as  Biocompost Fertilizers in Dry Agricultural Lands. 

Q 21. In Sugar Mills, the Sugar Cane Trash is also cut along with The Cane. Does it find any use in The Power Plant?

Ans: The Cane Trash has got a GCV as High as 3300kg/Kcal and very low Moisture Content. Hence it is fed as a backup fuel to Power Plant Boiler for producing Steam. As such the Pollution due to burning of Cane Trash in Sugar Cane Fields are totally eliminated.

Q 22. What is the purpose  in migrating to High Pressure Boilers from The Conventional Low Pressure Boilers?

Ans:  By using High Pressure Boilers, the Fuel To Steam Conversion, Evaporation Ratio   has improved making available surplus Fuel for Higher Power Exports to The State Power  Grid.

Q 23. What are the Incentives available for Setting up of Power Generation Unit with Biomass?

Ans. Capital Subsidy, Exemption from Payment of Excise Duty on machineries and Equipments purchased for initial setting up of a power plant are available. Apart from this CDM Benefits on Reduction of CERs and Preferential tariff for power exported to grid are also available.