The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and SAEL Industries Limited have signed loan agreements of up to 7.5 billion Indian rupees (around €84.5 million) to promote the generation of biomass energy using agricultural residue, which ADB said would help diversify India’s energy mix and reduce carbon intensity.
ADB’s support will fund the construction of five 14.9-megawatt biomass power plants in the districts of Bikaner, Churu, Hanumangarh, Jhunjhunu and Sikar in the state of Rajasthan.
Around 1.5 billion Indian rupees will be provided for each power plant to subsidiaries of SAEL Industries: Chattargarh Renewable Energy Private Limited, KTA Power Private Limited, Sardarshahar Agri Energy Private Limited, TNA Renewable Energy Private Limited and VCA Power Private Limited.
“Establishing biomass power plants that can repurpose agricultural residue will help protect the environment while contributing to the government’s goal of expanding renewable energy sources and reducing carbon dioxide emissions," said ADB vice president for private sector operations and public-private partnerships Ashok Lavasa.
“ADB’s assistance will have a powerful demonstration effect for biomass power by helping reduce risk perceptions and by creating awareness of its benefits and potential for use in other rural communities and developing member countries.”
More than half the land in Rajasthan is dedicated to agriculture. Local farms burn huge volumes of waste including stalks, husks, and straw, which cause air pollution.
These crop stubble burnings contribute to the worsening of air quality, and high levels of fine particulate matter have been linked to health effects such as asthma and decreased lung function.
The burning of crop stubble also contributes to reduced soil quality, requiring increased use of agriculture chemicals which causes other health issues.
The power plants will convert about 650,000 tons of agricultural residues into electricity and are expected to generate 544 gigawatt-hours of energy per annum, helping avoid up to 487,200 tons of carbon dioxide annually.
Local farmer incomes will rise through the sale of agricultural residue, according to ADB. The project also aims to purchase agricultural residue and other goods and services from at least 100 women-owned microbusinesses and 10 women’s self-help groups.
“By collecting the crop stubble to be used as fuel in our waste-to-energy plants, we help combat one of our nation’s greatest health issues, while at the same time creating local employment and generating extra income to farmers and local entrepreneurs. We are happy to have ADB partnering with us in these efforts,” said SAEL Industries chairman and managing director Jasbir Singh.