Fruit & nut power on the anvil

India can breathe easy amid the rise in coal shortage and subsequent power crisis across the country, as a team of scientists has found means to use coconut shells and mango kernel in small scale power generation plants to produce electricity.

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World’s largest producer of coconut shells and mango kernels, India has enough raw material to realise about one to three per cent of the country’s energy needs.

In a bid to assess the bio-electricity potential of farm wastes, researchers from three US universities studied 12 varieties of common fruits and nuts, to ascertain the energy generation potential of the waste generated from them globally. They studied coconut, mango, almond, apricot, cherry, olive, peach, pistachio, plum, sour cherry, stone fruit and walnut.

Globally, bulk of the wastes consist of coconut shells (55 per cent) and mango (17 per cent). India is the largest producer of these fruit wastes.

The heating value of the hardened fruit residue is on par with coal. This means, burning the same amount of coal and biomass would generate equivalent quantity of heat.

The scientists claimed that bio-electricity could provide for 8-30 per cent of the total electricity consumption in Sri Lanka, 17-25 per cent in Philippines, 4-13 per cent in Indonesia and 1-3 per cent in India.

“As a decentralised production mechanism, bio-gasifiers are economically viable and energy efficient. Gasifiers range in size greatly and there are a great number employed worldwide,” team leader Seth DeBolt from the University of Kentucky told Deccan Herald.

The potential for small scale bio-electricity generation from bio-mass should be channelled towards rural communities with severe energy poverty and social disparity, the team reported in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.

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