Power from paddy: IIT-M’s idea to tackle pollution

Power from paddy: IIT-M’s idea to tackle pollution

IIT-Madras has stepped up and found a method to tackle pollution caused by stubble burning by coming up with a thermal power generation solution out of stubbles

A farmer burns paddy stubble at a farm on the outskirts of Amritsar, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. The pollution and smokey haze around the adjoining states of Punjab and Haryana, especially New Delhi has been linked with stubble burning and is said to be a contributing factor for increasing air pollution. (PTI Photo)

Stubble burning has been a major issue in north Indian states of Punjab and Haryana for long and is cited as one of the reasons for the spike in pollution in New Delhi and other cities during winter.

Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) has now stepped in to tackle the issue by developing technology in thermal power generation using paddy straw as fuel. National Centre for Combustion Research and Development (NCCRD) at IIT-M and Sukhbir Agro Energy Ltd (SAEL), which operates two biomass-based power plants, have entered into a collaboration for conducting research and developmental activities on using paddy straw as fuel.

Stubble burning causes soil erosion, kills beneficial soil organisms besides emitting harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and methane along with particulate matter.

More than 35 million tons of paddy straw which cannot be fed to cattle is burnt every year in Punjab and Haryana alone. Usha Nagarajan, Chief Operating Officer of NCCRD, told DH that the paddy straw has a useful heating value of around 3200 to 3500 K Cal/kg, which is closer to the coal used for power generation in thermal power plants. “These paddy straws are burnt over two months every year, but we have found that they can be used in generating 4,000 MW of power each year. SAEL has a robust supply chain for paddy straws and we are helping them with the required technology to optimise the parameter of the boiler and characterise fuel,” she said.

Usha Nagarajan said the IIT-M is looking at technological solutions to make sure that straws become economically beneficial for the farmers and reduces pollution. “If the paddy straws are sold to such companies, they can use them to generate electricity,” she said. As SAEL is in the process of commissioning two 100% paddy straw-based power plants in Punjab, the company whose plants are based on the technology provided by Danish companies to the Indian OEMs approached the NCCRD.