Rice husk power

Here’s a cool-sounding example of a company developing for-profit “meso-power” stations that take local agricultural waste and use it to generate electricity for rural villages in India.

NextBillion.net: Tell me about rice husk – what is it, how much is there, where do you find them?  What do farmers do with them now?

Chip Ransler: Rice husk is the outside of a rice kernel.  When you harvest rice, husk represents about 30 percent of the gross weight.  As a result, husks are removed and discarded before transport.  In a typical village, about 1500 tons of rice are harvested every season, yielding 500 tons of husk and 1000 tons of edible product.  The farmers either burn the husk or allow it to rot in the fields.

Rice husk is cellulosic, which means it can be heated up and released for energy – the gas released is similar to methane.  It also contains silica, which is released as a waste product when burned.

So, why is this interesting?  If you took a map of the world’s energy poor areas and compare it to a map of rice producing areas, these two maps would look nearly identical.  So we use husk to make electricity.  The gas we make out of the husk is filtered, then run through a diesel-like engine to generate power.

Like I said, farmers throw away or burn rice husk – releasing methane into the atmosphere.  This is an opportunity too.  We’re working with the Indian government on getting our Clean Development Mechanism certification to sell carbon credits associated with our plants.  And the silica – which is the other waste product – is sold to concrete manufacturers.  So we take agricultural waste and turn it into electricity, minerals and carbon credits.


from “Rice Power to the People With Husk Power Systems,” by Robert Katz, WorldChanging, 28 October 2008

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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