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Tyndall Manchester

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Environmental sustainability of small-scale biomass power technologies for agricultural communities in developing countries

13 December 2019

This study by Jhud Mikhail Aberilla, Dr Alejandro Gallego Schmid, Dr Laurence Stamford and Prof Adisa Azapagic quantifies the potential environmental benefits of using residues from rice, coconut and livestock as an alternative to diesel generators in off-grid communities.

Fuel, conversion and output

While biomass is generally considered to be a renewable resource, its sustainability for energy applications needs to be evaluated based on specific contexts of its source, conversion and utilization. There is increasing interest in small-scale technologies for waste biomass utilization as these can avoid issues of transportation, waste management and food security. Agricultural wastes are readily available in farming communities and can be utilized to provide off-grid electricity as an alternative to diesel generators. Our work evaluates the environmental sustainability of these small-scale systems in the Philippine context. Rice and coconut residues are considered for direct combustion and for conversion to fuel gas via gasification, and livestock manure for biogas via anaerobic digestion. 

We find that anaerobic digestion is the best option, and that electricity derived from crop residues has lower environmental impacts than diesel generators, except in water pollution and toxicity. Overall, providing electricity from residual biomass instead of diesel in small agricultural communities would reduce environmental impacts significantly while improving waste management practices.

Read the full paper at the link below:

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