Tag: Biomass

Cleantech Trends Worth Watching


Cleantech promises to play a vital role in fostering sustainable development world. Access to clean, reliable and relatively cheap energy from renewable resources, especially solar power, will usher in a new era in developing countries like India, Bangladesh, Kenya, Rwanda and Peru. Off-grid (also known as microgrid or standalone) renewable power systems are already making a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of people in the developing world, especially in rural areas. Apart from solar, wind and biomass energy will also play a key role in improving the living conditions in impoverished parts of the world.

Advancements in battery energy storage have pushed this particular sector into media as well as public spotlight. With big industry names like Tesla and Nissan leading from the front, energy storage technologies are expected to make great contribution in transition to green grid powered by intermittent energy sources like solar PV, CSP, wind and biomass.

In recent years, the concept of Zero Waste has transformed our perception about garbage. The concept of Zero Waste has led to the development of a new waste management hierarchy involving 7Rs – Reduce, Replace, Reuse, Recycle, Recover, Refuse and Rethink. Zero Waste movement is fast spreading worldwide and many communities are making serious efforts to reduce waste generation and to make the best use of trash. In the coming years, advancements in recycling systems, treatment methods and eco-design will not only help in waste diversion from landfills but also help in smooth transition to a circular economy.


For more information, please email Salman Zafar on salman@cleantechloops.com or salman@ecomena.org

Biomass Energy: Driving Rural Development


Biomass energy offers attractive opportunities for rural development, and has got tremendous potential to rejuvenate the agricultural economy and community empowerment. The development of efficient biomass handling technology, improvement of agro-industrial systems and establishment of small, medium and large-scale biomass-based plants can play a major role in rural development.

Improvements in agricultural practices promises to increased biomass yields, reductions in cultivation costs, and improved environmental quality. Extensive research in the fields of synthetic biology, plant genetics, analytical techniques, remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) and IoT promised to help in increasing the energy potential of biomass feedstock.

Biomass-based microgrid developed by Husk Power Systems in Bihar (India)

Rural areas are the preferred hunting ground for the development of biomass energy sector worldwide. By making use of various biological and thermal processes (anaerobic digestion/biogas, combustion, gasification, pyrolysis), agricultural wastes can be converted into biofuels, heat or electricity, and thus catalyzing sustainable development of rural areas economically, socially and environmentally.

There are many areas around the world where people still lack access to electricity and clean cooking fuel, and thus face enormous hardship in day-to-day lives. Biomass-based microgrids, clean cookstoves and biomass-based fuels can reduce ‘energy poverty’ commonly prevalent among remote and isolated communities.  To conclude, when a marginalized community is able to access reliable and cheap energy, it will lead to overall socio-economic growth, poverty alleviation, youth empowerment and sustainable development.

For more information, please email Salman Zafar on salman@cleantechloops.com or salman@ecomena.org

Biofuels from Waste


A variety of fuels can be produced from waste resources including liquid fuels, such as ethanol, methanol, biodiesel, Fischer-Tropsch diesel, and gaseous fuels, such as hydrogen and methane. The resource base for biofuel production is composed of a wide variety of forestry and agricultural resources, industrial processing residues, and municipal solid and urban wood residues. Globally, biofuels are most commonly used to power vehicles, heat homes, and for cooking.

The largest potential feedstock for ethanol is lignocellulosic biomass wastes, which includes materials such as agricultural residues (corn stover, crop straws and bagasse), herbaceous crops (alfalfa, switchgrass), short rotation woody crops, forestry residues, waste paper and other wastes (municipal and industrial). Bioethanol production from these feedstocks could be an attractive alternative for disposal of these residues. Importantly, lignocellulosic feedstocks do not interfere with food security.

Ethanol from lignocellulosic biomass is produced mainly via biochemical routes. The three major steps involved are pretreatment, enzymatic hydrolysis, and fermentation. Biomass is pretreated to improve the accessibility of enzymes. After pretreatment, biomass undergoes enzymatic hydrolysis for conversion of polysaccharides into monomer sugars, such as glucose and xylose. Subsequently, sugars are fermented to ethanol by the use of different microorganisms.

For more information, please email Salman Zafar on salman@cleantechloops.com or salman@ecomena.org

Which is the Most Efficient Form of Renewable Energy


The renewable energy sector is growing fast. Its strength lies in its diversity and its numerous tangible benefits. This infographic explores the different types that are currently in use. Learn more about how they work and how experts determine their efficiency.

To learn more, checkout the infographic below created by New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Online Master of Science in Electrical Engineering degree program.

NJIT Online

The Statistics

Renewable energy accounted for a tenth of the total US energy consumption in 2015. Half of this was in the form of electricity. There are a several possible sources including geothermal, solar, wind, hydroelectricity and biomass. Biomass has the biggest contribution with 50%, followed by hydroelectricity at 26% and wind at 18%.

Geothermal energy is generated by harnessing the Earth’s natural heat. There is a tremendous amount stored in the planet with the conduction rate pegged at 44.2 terawatts. According to a recent report, the global industry is expected to produce around 18.4 gigawatts by 2021.

Wind energy, on the other hand, makes use of air flow to move massive wind turbines. The mechanical action generates electric power. Rows of windmills are usually constructed along coastal areas where there are no barriers to impede flow. This industry could make up 35% of US electrical production by 2050.

By that time, experts believe that solar energy could be supplying us with 25% of our energy needs. The estimate is based on combined photovoltaic and solar thermal energy systems. This might not be far off from reality given the continuing improvements in solar technology and the steady decrease in the cost of the panels.

Biomass refers to wood, biofuels, waste and other forms of organic matter which are burned to produce energy. The burning process releases carbon emissions but it is still considered renewable because the plants used can be regrown. Generation will rise at a slower pace that the rest from 4.2 quadrillion BTU in 2013 to 5 quadrillion BTU in 2040.

Hydroelectric plants use the power of moving water to generate electricity. The conventional method is to build dams to control the flow. This requires massive investment but operation and maintenance costs are quite low. This currently accounts for 7% of US the total US energy production.

Measuring Efficiency

We can find out which one of these renewable energy sources is the most efficient by calculating the costs of the fuel, the production, and the environmental damages. Wind comes out on top by a wide margin over all the other sources. It is followed in order by geothermal, hydro, nuclear and solar.

A formula was devised to compute the levelized cost of electricity or LCOE of the various methods we discussed. The outcome depends on several factors including the capital cost, the fuel cost, the projected utilization rate, the operation cost, and the maintenance cost.

Aside from these, both the plant owners and investors must consider the potential effects on efficiency of other external factors. For instance, there will always be an element of uncertainty when it comes to fuel prices and government policies. One administration may be supportive with tax credits and other stimuli for the industry. Another may not be as keen on seeing it take off.

Aside from LCOE, another formula used is called the levelized avoided cost of electricity or LACE. This measures the cost if the grid was to generate electricity displaced by a new generation project. LACE seeks to address the gaps in LCOE by comparing technology efficiencies while accounting for regional differences.

Types of Wind Power

There are different types of wind power including offshore, distributed and utility-scale wind. Offshore is characterized by turbines located in bodies of water. Their placement makes construction difficult such that they can be 50% more expensive than nuclear and 90% more costly than fossil fuel generators.

Utility-scale wind refers to electricity that is generated in wind farms that is then delivered to the power grid for disbursal by utility companies to the end-user. The turbines used are bigger than 100 kW. Distributed wind power, on the other hand, is also called small wind because the turbines are 100 kW or less. The electricity is delivered directly to the end-user.

Wind turbines could use the horizontal-axis or the vertical axis design. The former is more popular than the latter. These are made up of blades, a tower, a drivetrain, controls, electrical cables, group support, and interconnection equipment. Small turbines for homes have rotors between 8 and 25 feet in diameter and stand over 30 feet.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Wind Energy

This form of energy is providing 88,000 jobs all around the US with 21,000 of these being in the manufacturing sector. It is a free and renewable resource that is clean and non-polluting. Since it is in harmony with nature, it can be built on land that is also used for growing crops or grazing animals. The initial investment may be high but the operating expenses is low. No fuel is needed to keep things going.

As for economic benefits, it is considered as a drought-resistant cash crop for farmers as well as ranchers. The taxes paid by the wind farm owners are channeled into rural communities. Indeed, around 70% of the turbines in existence are in low-income counties. These generated more than $128 billion in investments between 2008 and 2015. This resulted in $7.3 billion in public health benefits by reducing air pollutants.

Not all is rosy, however, as there are also notable disadvantages. Engineers have to address several issues including the intermittent nature of wind. The ideal locations for construction are generally remote and far from the cities that need power the most. Bridging this gap is of primary importance.

They tend to be noisy while they turn and are difficult to build. Imagine building 20 story towers that can accommodate blades as long as 60 meters. The transportation of materials to the remote sites is a logistical challenge. While land animals are safe, birds often fall victim to the blades as they try to pass through. Offshore turbines should be operated with migratory patterns in mind to keep marine birds safe.


Exports by wind turbine manufacturers jumped from just $16 million in 2007 to $488 million in 2014. This can be attributed to advances in wind turbine technology. This includes that development of a special blade that can increase energy capture by 12%. Thanks to this and other innovations, this form of renewable energy is becoming more efficient and attractive for investors.

For more information, please email Salman Zafar on salman@cleantechloops.com or salman@ecomena.org

Thermal Processing of Agricultural Wastes


Agricultural wastes are highly important sources of biomass fuels for both the domestic and industrial sectors. Availability of primary residues for energy application is usually low since collection is difficult and they have other uses as fertilizer, animal feed etc. However secondary residues are usually available in relatively large quantities at the processing site and may be used as captive energy source for the same processing plant involving minimal transportation and handling cost.

Agricultural wastes encompasses all agricultural wastes such as straw, stem, stalk, leaves, husk, shell, peel, pulp, stubble, etc. which come from cereals (rice, wheat, maize or corn, sorghum, barley, millet), cotton, groundnut, jute, legumes (tomato, bean, soy) coffee, coconut, cacao, tea, fruits (banana, mango, coco, cashew) and palm oil.

A wide range of thermal technologies exists to convert the energy stored in agricultural wastes to more useful forms of energy. These technologies can be classified according to the principal energy carrier produced in the conversion process. The major methods of thermal conversion are combustion in excess air, gasification in reduced air, and pyrolysis in the absence of air.

Conventional combustion technologies raise steam through the combustion of biomass. This steam may then be expanded through a conventional turbo-alternator to produce electricity. Co-firing or co-combustion of agricultural wastes with coal and other fossil fuels can provide a short-term, low-risk, low-cost option for producing renewable energy while simultaneously reducing the use of fossil fuels. Co-firing has the major advantage of avoiding the construction of new, dedicated, biomass power plant.

Gasification of agricultural wastes takes place in a restricted supply of oxygen and occurs through initial devolatilization of the biomass, combustion of the volatile material and char, and further reduction to produce a fuel gas rich in carbon monoxide and hydrogen. This combustible gas has a lower calorific value than natural gas but can still be used as fuel for boilers, for engines, and potentially for combustion turbines after cleaning the gas stream of tars and particulates. Biomass power systems using gasification has followed two divergent pathways, which are a function of the scale of operations. At sizes much less than 1MW, the preferred technology combination today is a moving bed gasifier and ICE combination, while at scales much larger than 10 MW, the combination is of a fluidized bed gasifier and a gas turbine.

Pyrolysis enables agricultural residues to be converted to a combination of solid char, gas and a liquid bio-oil. Pyrolysis technologies are generally categorized as “fast” or “slow” according to the time taken for processing the feed into pyrolysis products. Bio-oil can act as a liquid fuel or as a feedstock for chemical production. A range of bio-oil production processes are under development, including fluid bed reactors, ablative pyrolysis, entrained flow reactors, rotating cone reactors, and vacuum pyrolysis.

For more information, please email Salman Zafar on salman@cleantechloops.com or salman@ecomena.org

Renewable Energy Situation in Kuwait


The renewable energy sector is in nascent stages in Kuwait, however there has been heightened activity in recent years mainly on account of the need for diversification of energy resources, climate change concerns and greater public awareness. The oil-rich State of Kuwait has embarked on a highly ambitious journey to meet 15 per cent of its energy requirements (approximately 2000 MW) from renewable resources by 2030.

One of the most promising developments is the kick-starting of the initial phase of 2GW Shagaya Renewable Energy Park in December last year. As per conservative estimates, more than $8 billion investment will have to be made to achieve renewable energy targets in Kuwait.

Renewable Energy Potential

In Kuwait, the predominant renewable energy resource is available in the form of solar and wind. The country has one of the highest solar irradiation levels in the world, estimated at 2100 – 2200 kW/m2 per year. The average insolation of 5.2 kWh/m2/day and maximum annual sun hours of around 9.2 hours daily makes Kuwait a very good destination for solar power plant developers.

Wind energy also has good potential in the country as the average wind speed is relatively good at around 5m/s in regions like Al-Wafra and Al-Taweel. Infact, Kuwait already has an existing 2.4MW Salmi Mini-windfarm, completed in 2013, which mainly serves telecommunication towers in remote areas and the fire brigade station in Salmi. As far as biomass energy is concerned, it has very limited scope in Kuwait due to arid climate and lack of water resources.

Kuwait Renewable Energy Program

Interestingly, Kuwait has been one of the earliest advocates of renewable energy in the Middle East with its involvement dating back to mid-1970s; however the sector is still in its early stages. The good news is that renewable energy has now started to move into development agenda and political discourse in Kuwait.

The Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research (KISR) and the Kuwait Authority for Partnership Projects (KAPP) are playing an important role in Kuwait’s push towards low-carbon economy. KISR, in particular, has been mandated by the government to develop large-scale alternative energy systems in collaboration with international institutions and technology companies.

Kuwait’s renewable energy program, with the aim to generate 2GW renewable energy by 2030, has been divided into three stages. The first phase involves the construction of 70 MW integrated renewable energy park (solar PV, solar thermal and wind) at Shagaya which is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016. The second and third phases are projected to produce 930 MW and 1,000 MW, respectively. The three phases will meet the electricity demand of 100,000 homes and save about 12.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per year on completion.

Role of KISR

The Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), founded in 1967, is one of the earliest research institutions in GCC to undertake commercial-scale research on potential applications and socio-economic benefits of renewable energy systems in Kuwait as well as GCC. Infact, KISR designed and operated a pilot-scale 100kW solar energy station in 1978.

Over the years, KISR has done extensive research, using experimental projects and economic modelling exercises, on deployment of solar energy, wind energy and renewables-powered desalination in Kuwait. KISR is playing a pivotal role in the conceptualization, R&D and development of renewable energy projects in Kuwait including the flagship venture of Shagaya Renewable Energy Park.

Shagaya Renewable Energy Park

Shagaya is to Kuwait as Masdar is to Abu Dhabi. Shagaya Renewable Energy Park comprises of solar thermal, solar photovoltaic and wind power systems, being built on a 100 km2 area in Shagaya, in a desert zone near Kuwait’s border with Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The $385 million first phase, scheduled to be operational by the end of 2016, will include 10MW of wind power, 10MW of solar PV, and 50MW of solar thermal systems. The project’s thermal energy storage system, based on molten salt, will have nine hours of storage capacity, one of the few projects worldwide with such a large capacity.

Shagaya Renewable Energy Park comprises of solar thermal, solar photovoltaic and wind power systems

Al-Abdaliyah Integrated Solar Project

Al-Abdaliyah ISCC Project is another promising solar venture which is currently at pre-qualification stage. To be built in the south-west of Kuwait, the plant will have a total capacity of 280 MW, out of which 60 MW will be contributed by solar thermal systems. The facility being developed under a build-operate-transfer scheme, under the supervision of Kuwait Authority for Public Partnerships, provides a 25-year concession backed by an energy conversion and power-purchase agreement with the government.

Parting Shot

The major force behind Kuwait’s renewables program is energy security and diversification of energy mix. The country has one of the world’s highest per capita consumption of energy which is growing with each passing year. Kuwait is heavily dependent on imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) to run its power plant, which is a significant burden on its GDP.

In recent years, the MENA region has received some of the lowest renewable-energy prices awarded globally for both photovoltaic and wind power which seems to have convinced Kuwait to seriously explore the option of large-scale power generation from renewable resources. Needless to say, Kuwait has a long way to go before renewable energy can make a real impact in its national energy mix.

Another key driver for Kuwait’s transition to low-carbon economy is its carbon and ecological footprints, which is among the highest worldwide. Widespread use of renewable power will definitely help Kuwait in putting forward a ‘green’ and ‘eco-friendly’ image in the region and beyond. Job creations, growth of private sector, development of green SMEs sector and heavy cleantech investment are among other important benefits. The business case for green energy proliferation in Kuwait is strengthened by widespread availability of solar and wind resources and tumbling costs of alternative energy systems.

With many projects in planning and development phases, Kuwait should now focus on implementing projects in a timely manner and also on developing a realistic renewable energy vision. The development of a renewable energy atlas and renewable energy framework are bound to attract more investments from local and foreign investors.

For more information, please email Salman Zafar on salman@cleantechloops.com or salman@ecomena.org

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons
Salman Zafar