Ferozepur biomass power plant generates power with stubble, Know how Punjab deals with stubble burning issue

Ferozepur's biomass power plant generates power with stubble. Know how Punjab is increasing the use of paddy stubble to generate power and eliminate the stubble-burning issue.

Biomass power plant using stubble, Source: ANI
Biomass power plant using stubble, Source: ANI

A biomass power plant in Ferozepur in Punjab is generating electricity using paddy stubble amid increasing concerns over air pollution due to stubble burning by farmers in the state. “The Sukhbir Agro Energy Limited biomass power plant is 18 MW per hr. It is a stubble-based plant that uses 600 tons of stubble in a day and around 2 to 2.5 lakh tons of stubble in a year,” said Sukhbir Agro Energy Limited’s General Manager (Commercial) Satish Bedi told ANI.

The initiative by this biomass power plant in Ferozepur has been termed favorable for farmers as they will be paid for selling stubble to the plant. The initiative if scaled up could also aid in generating more electricity while eliminating the stubble burning problem in the state.

Punjab uses paddy stubble to generate power, eliminate stubble-burning issue

The Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) has directed three thermal power plants in Punjab to use paddy stubble as a fuel source to the extent of 10 per cent of total annual coal use. Two of these plants belong to the State government. All three plants collectively consume 70 lakh tonnes of coal per year.

The Punjab Energy Development Agency (PEDA) along with the Punjab Government has been working to tackle the stubble-burning issue in Punjab. The PEDA has set up 11 biomass power plants that generate 97.50 MW of power by consuming 8.80 lakh metric tonnes of paddy stubble (5 per cent of total 220 lakh tonnes). Most of these plants range between 4 to 18 MW and consume 36,000 to 1.62 lakh metric tonnes stubble annually.

Two more biomass power plants by PEDA were to be operationalized in June 2021 namely the 10 MW plant in Fatehgarh Sahib and 4 MW in Nakodar. However, these two are likely to be operational in 2022. These two plants will consume around 1.2 lakh metric tonnes of paddy stubble.

With more ambitious projects by PEDA such as setting up India’s largest Bio-CNG project that will require 1.10 lakh metric tonnes of paddy stubble per year and setting up a Bioethanol project that will require 2 lakh metric tonnes of paddy stubble per year, Punjab is expected to be able to deal with 1.5 million tonnes (7 per cent of total 20 million tonnes) paddy stubble.

Centre’s efforts to tackle stubble burning issue in Punjab

Punjab accounts for 220 lakh (20 million) tonnes of stubble along with the paddy. Of which, 50 lakh tonnes of stubble is consumed by biomass power generating plants in Punjab. However, the remaining 170 lakh tonnes, around 45 per cent which is 100 lakh tonnes is not managed adequately and is mostly burned by the farmers leading to the nuance of stubble burning.

Stubble burning leads to environmental damage with the formation of a jacket of smog over the national capital region and adjoining states. Therefore, the Centre asked Punjab to involve the National Remote Sensing Centre to keep tabs on the levels of aerosols and harmful gases released in the air. The Centre also issued orders to involve the Indian Agricultural Research Institute for data analysis.

Earlier in October 2021, the Centre asked Punjab to focus on ex-situ management of the stubble generated. Tying the stubble bundles and supplying them as a fuel source to biomass power plants, coal-based supercritical power generating units, industrial boilers are the most common forms of ex-situ management.

The Punjab Agriculture Department is planning to give around 30,000 machines for in-situ management of paddy with a total subsidy of Rs 250 crore in the current paddy harvest. Unlike ex-situ, in-situ management does not require moving stubble from its original place.

10,000 machines including Happy Seeder, Shredder, Paddy Straw Chopper, etc have already been provided. Farmers have been provided with around 76,590 machines over the past 3 years (2018-20). The Centre has given a subsidy of Rs 666 crore to Punjab over the past 3 years.

As of October 2, 2021, Punjab had reported 228 cases of stubble burning with Amritsar with the highest number of cases at 157 followed by Tarn Taran (31 cases), Patiala (10 cases), and Faridkot (9 cases).

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