17th October, 2002


Subhasis K. Chanda

Over the last decade the non-conventional and renewable energy sources have been occupying the central place in the area of energy generation and supply due to fast depletion of fossil fuels. According to reports, the conventional energy sources would likely to be exhausted globally by 2050. With such a deadline looming over the head, the technological experts are busy finding viable means of sustaining the existing and discovering new sources of energy. In a relevant move, the Government has taken up an ambitious plan on non-conventional energy sources to light up about 40 thousand remote villages of the country by the Tenth Plan period. Keeping this in view, the country’s biggest Biomass Gasifier Power Plant has recently been built at a remote hamlet Kshetricherra of Tripura.

Kshetricherra is situated at Chhamanu block under Longtharai Valley subdivision in Dhalai district. It is inhabited mostly by tribal populace and hitherto been remained a dark area. On August 30, the switching on of the 1 MW Biomass Gasifier based power plant aired the message of transforming the lives of 20,000 tribal inhabitants of the area. The plant will provide electricity for domestic use, drinking-water supply, irrigation plants, hospital, wireless-communication station, mechanical workshops and other commercial activities. The project is also aimed to ensure peak-saving, power supply to 2000 direct consumers, employment generation, environment protection, strengthening co-operative movement, development of power and forest industries besides setting up of base for rural information technology centre.

Biomass gasification is basically conversion of solid-wood, wood-waste and agriculture-reduce into a combustible gas mixture normally called producer gas. While conversion to gas results in a loss of energy up to 25 per cent, the use of gas thus obtained is highly beneficial. In biomass gasifier plant, the gas is basically burnt inside a diesel-based engine. Generally, in a 20 kw power generation project 1.8 to 2 litres of diesel and 16 to 20 kg wood are used every hour when operated in dual-fuel mood. So the consumption of diesel and wood for 1MW plant would be five times of that proportion.

The biomass required for the plant will be supplied by the State Forest Department, which has set up a forest plantation of Kesiya tree over 200 hectare area nearby the plant. The Tripura Renewable Energy Development Agency (TREDA) with an estimated cost of about Rs. 2.5 crore took up this biggest biomass project of the country in 1999. The ninety per cent of the cost has been borne by the Ministry of Renewable Energy and rest of it by the State government. Though there have been signs of electricity before this plant in the block area but a large number of hamlets were without the power. Now the people living at those hamlets may breathe a sigh of relief, for, the power from this plant will be utilized to light 20 villages under the block.

Set up over an area of one acre the biomass gasifier power plant has four gasifier machines of 250-kilo watt capacity each. Four generators and other ancillary equipments are complementing these. Everyday 1 mega watt power is generated at the plant. Not all but those villages, which are most backward and yet to be brought under electricity network, have been identified for implementation. Considering the limited production, the service, at the moment, is being restricted to the prime time requirement i.e. from 5 pm. to 11 pm. Each unit of power will cost Rs. 2.75.

To oversee the management of the power plant a co-operative society, Chhamanu Rural Energy Co-operative Society Ltd., with the chairman of Block Advisory Committee as its chairman, has been constituted. Besides, with a view to ensure active participation of the local people two local tribal youths have been engaged as mechanics for the project by TREDA after giving them necessary training at an ITI in Gujarat. Besides, a large number of local people have expressed their concern and have come forward to help its timely completion.

The power project is expected to contribute a great deal to the rural infrastructure and rural development of the State as well as the country. Alongside the plan to illuminate the dark hamlets of a remote area of the country let the Kshetricherra biomass gasifier plant be an ideal instance of upholding the concept of participatory planning and implementation. (PIB Features)

*AIO,PIB, Agartala

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