India has an estimated 17,536 MW of energy potential from the burning of crop waste, which is about equal to the power produced by 16 nuclear power plants. As an example of this potential, Punjab Biomass Power Ltd. is planning 96 MW of rice-straw-fueled plants to be developed by 2017.
In some of the areas where these biomass plants could operate, there are ample supplies of plant residues. Lakhimpur District has over 50,000 tons of surplus rice straw each year, according to a research study.
In another study, researchers found that, in Punjab, 100 million tons of rice straw are currently produced each year, and 75% of that is burned. So a surplus of 70-80 million tons of waste residues could be available for use in biomass plants.
This mass of useful material is from one crop and only from Punjab, which is one of 28 states, and there are seven additional territories.
Burning crop waste raises particulate matter levels. Particulate matter in air can contribute to health conditions like asthma, and even premature death. Weather conditions also can trap particulate matter in the air where the burning takes place. So converting these waste to feedstock for biomass plants seems to be a sensible solution.
In Rajasthan, a poor area, farmers started selling their crop waste to a biomass plant there in 2007. Previously, it had no commercial value.
Ludhiana, a city in Punjab, was declared one of the most polluted cities in the world due to the use of diesel and kerosene in vehicles for fuel. Electric scooters may replace their gasoline cousins in these very polluted cities because they produce far less air pollution. Generating electricity locally with existing materials would also lessen dependence on foreign oil.
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