Farm waste to energy: Overcoming challenges

Dhaka,  Wed,  23 August 2017
Published : 23 Nov 2016, 21:28:02

Farm waste to energy: Overcoming challenges

Salman Zahir
Energy scarcity has been identified as a strong constraint on the growth of the economy, hampering the quality of life.

Bangladesh, a fast growing economy with depleting gas reserves (10-15 years left), might run into a critical condition soon. Understandably, timely encouragement for renewable energy technologies will help us prepare for the problems ahead.

Being an agriculture-based economy, Bangladesh holds great potential of generating clean energy from biogas. 

Although with the help of development partners, the government has constructed as many as 91,350  domestic biogas plants, the number of commercial plants are negligible. However, a good number of the poultry and dairy farms have the capacity to adopt a commercial model and contribute around 620 GWh (Gigawatt Hour) of electricity every year.

These farms generate nearly 4,500 MT of waste every single day, accumulating to 2.0 million tons per year. The indiscriminate disposal of this waste pollutes the environment and spreads diseases.

Poultry farms require a constant supply of power in order for them to ensure the growth of livestock as well as the production of eggs.  But unfortunately, they suffer from limited and unreliable access to grid electricity which results in heavy reliance on diesel, an expensive, inefficient and polluting source of power.

Faced with these challenges, the sector inadvertently poses threat to the environment as well as increases business expenses. IFC, in partnership The Royal Danish Embassy Dhaka, has taken the initiative to convert poultry wastes into biogas and electricity. This will allow farms to generate clean, renewable energy from their own wastes, helping them to:

- Manage wastes better

- Control the outbreak of diseases

- Increase productivity by reducing diesel cost significantly

- Introduce a new revenue stream from the sales of slurry

But installation of a waste-to-energy plant is expensive. Most of the poultry farms are small and medium; hence their financing capacity is limited. There is lack of technical knowledge and awareness among the farm owners, consequently, they have little or no interest in installing waste-to-energy plants.

To provide some of the answers, The International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Royal Danish Embassy, Dhaka arranged in the city a seminar titled "Answering the Challenges to Adoption of Farm Waste to Energy Technology in Bangladesh" on November 20. A small virtual tour was shown to inaugurate Green Energy Knowledge Hub, a world-class biogas knowledge solution centre in Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh. This research and knowledge centre will serve in generating knowledge on capacity development, production maximisation, co-generation of electricity and using bio-slurry as fertiliser for meeting crop nutrient requirements of the country.

Through the seminar IFC and Royal Danish Embassy tried to leverage farms that operate on a larger scale with appropriate business support services to address the challenges.

The writer is a consultant  for IFC, Bangladesh.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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