After rice-husk, MNRE turns to corn cobs for power

Bihar readies for pilot of electricity generation from corn

sweta-ranjan

Sweta Ranjan | July 5, 2011



After successful projects of electricity generation through rice husk, it is time to use corn cob and stalks. By the end of August this year the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) plan to operationalise a few gasifier systems for electricity generation in the corn belts of Bihar. The leftover cobs and stalks after the corn has been harvested can be converted directly into electricity.

For the northeastern part of Bihar - Samastipur, Barauni, Begusarai, Khagaria, Saharsa, Katihar, Purnia, Araria, Kishan Ganj and other districts - nightmarish experiences of powercut may soon become a thing of the past with electricty from corn.

Keeping in view of high yields (of about 3.7 ton per hectare) of maize in the state during summer, a model has been develpoed by MNRE involving NGOs and milk cooperatives.

Dr D K Khare, director, MNRE says, “It has been noted that the country accounts for about 3 per cent of the world maize production and Bihar accounts for 10 per cent of country’s production. Maize production in Bihar has been increasing for last few years. In Bihar, crop is cultivated 3 times in a year. Summer crop (third crop) of maize is being raised in limited area (about 10-15 per cent of the total agriculture land of the region) due to non-availability of assured irrigation facilities. There would be enormous potential to grow third crop, if irrigation facility is created.”

According to a MNRE study done in Barauni, Purnia and Araria, villagers grow corn during summer, irrigating the crop by using diesel pump sets, which are mostly hired. Barauni has about 200 villages where electricity is not available for more than 2-4 hours. The only exception are the milk collection centres and chilling plants some of these villages have, which are powered by 16 KW (20 KVA) diesel generators. These generators run for four hours in the morning and four in the evening.

Each 32 KW gasifier system using maize refuse can meet electricity needs of 400-500 households for 5-6 hours in the evening. Five to six pump sets of 5 HP can be operated at a time for 6-7 hours for irrigation purposes during summer for growing maize. Generally, 5 HP pump set consumes one litre of diesel per hour. Most of the villagers hire pump sets and pay about Rs. 100 per hour. Thus every day they are paying about Rs 500-600 per pump set.

Each 5 HP pump set can power irrigation  of about 1 acre (0.40 hectares) of land in 5-6 hours. Maize crops require irrigation in every 8 days. Five to six pump set could be able to irrigate 5-6 acres (2.0-2.40 hectares) land every day. Thus every month about 40-48 acres (16-20 hectares) land could be kept under assured irrigation for growing maize.

The ministry of agriculture has reported an average yield of 3.7 ton per hectare of maize in Bihar during summer. Dr Khare says, “The farmers can produce additional maize of 60-75 ton from 16-20 hectare land during 3rd crop (garma) if irrigation facilities are created by providing electricity through gasifier system.”

The gasifier operation of 5-6 hours per day would require about 50kg per hour corn cobs or stalks. Thus, total quantity of about 75-80 ton per year required for irrigation can be yielded from the land irrigated for one season alone.

Therefore, gasifier operation for 10-12 hour per day (5-6 hours in day time and 5-6 hours in evening) would require maximum biomass feed stock of 150-180 ton per year which could be ensured in those areas of Bihar where maize cultivation is a primary crop.

“The corn crop produced during summer would be sufficient to generate electricity for the whole year”, assures Dr Khare. Along with getting electricity the farmers will also get additional income through selling of 60-75 ton of maize and fetch additional income of Rs 6-7 lakh from summer crop alone as present market price of maize from Bihar is around Rs 10,000 per ton.

The maize-power model of distributed and off-grid electricity solutions for rural areas and farmers is expected to save upto about Rs50,000 per month spent on 1,000 liters of diesel. Each system would provide electricity to about more than 400 households for 5-6 hours daily. Additional benefits can be assured from sale of carbon and ash can be utilized for making bricks or tiles.

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