The environment has gone through severe irreversible damage due to massive consumption of non-renewable sources of energy. Renewable sources of energy are the best hope of making sure that the survival continues without further causing global damage to the environment. Straw energy derived from rice straw could be the answer for an alternative source of energy to produce bioelectrical energy and there could be several benefits of straw energy where the environment is concerned.
Rice, being a staple food across many nations, is produced on a massive scale. According to United States Department of Agriculture, the total amount of rice produced during the years 2016 and 2017 amounts to a total of 481.5 million tons across the world, especially in Asian countries where it is a major food crop.
Similarly, in Germany, 8-13 million tons of straw can be used for energy production out of 30 million tons of cereal straw that remains behind after crop production, according to Thueringian Regional Institute for Agriculture, German Biomass Research Center, and Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research.
Hence, the numbers clearly state that rice straw for alternative energy can be the future.
Since rice is produced on such a big scale, it leaves behind a huge bulk of unwanted straw waste that is set to fire by farmers in India. Not only the prospect of rice straw for alternative energy is being destroyed, but also the pollution caused by it is highly damaging to the environment. The smoke affects Punjab and neighboring states to a large extent. By using straw energy, the pollution can be reduced and an alternative source of energy can be realized.
Straw energy for fuel production
Burning the leftover unwanted rice straw is highly wasteful and it affects the quality of soil as well. It adds tones of organic carbon to the atmosphere, which is depleting the ozone layer of the planet.
Thus, it goes without saying, there are many benefits of straw energy:
- It will reduce the pollution in the environment since farmers would not have to burn the unwanted rice straw.
- It will provide us with a new source of electrical energy.
- It will prevent the soil from being robbed of all its nutrients.
- It can be a potential future renewable source of energy.
Using rice straw for alternative energy
The technology required to convert rice straw into an alternative energy source is same as used for other agricultural material. The techniques used are Combustion, Gasification, Pyrolysis, and Anaerobic Digestion.
Combustion– Steam turbines and boilers are used for producing bioelectrical energy from agricultural resources. The technique is typically best for countries like India and China, where large quantities of rice are produced. It is used for projects ranging from 10-20 MW.
Gasification– It is better suited for smaller quantities of rice straws. The technique, however, is outdated and no longer commercially viable. The engines are high maintenance and not much technological advancement has happened where gasification is concerned.
Pyrolysis– Pyrolysis produces liquid fuel. Since it produces liquid fuel, the problems faced in the process of gasification can be avoided. However, the technique does not promise an alternative fuel for engine generator. It can be used for pretreatment of fuel rather than producing the finished product.
Anaerobic Digestion– The technique can efficiently produce biogas, which can be used in engine generators. However, the technique requires rice straw to be mixed with organic waste like manure to produce the finished product, which makes it difficult to conduct on a large scale.
Hindrances in producing straw energy
While rice straw for alternative energy is possible and the benefits of straw energy are numerous, it does propose a few problems as we have seen above. The technology doesn’t fully support producing bioelectrical energy from rice straw. However, that is not the biggest issue. The bigger problems are that once the final product is ready there is a problem of storage and transportation of biomass. Another issue that should be covered is that getting the farmers to sell their rice straw is not easy. When the market for rice straw grows bigger, the prices of straw will increase as well, making it an expensive affair to reap the benefits of straw energy.
Thus, it can be concluded that there is a high possibility of using rice straw to create a future renewable source of energy. It will also provide an environment- friendly alternative fuel by reducing the contribution to greenhouse gases.