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India launches Green Charcoal Hackathon to promote clean technology

The Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy, R.K. Singh, has launched the Green Charcoal Hackathon, which aims to reduce carbon emissions and nurture technology solutions in India.

To fast-track technology development, NVVN (NTPC VidyutVyapar Nigam), in partnership with EESL (Energy Efficiency Services Limited), organised this technology challenge. The purpose of which is to leverage technology and innovation to develop solutions that will lead to clean air by eliminating farm fire and producing renewable energy out of the agro residue.

According to a press release, the hackathon also aims to promote local entrepreneurship and increase the income of the country’s farmers. Speaking on the occasion, the Minister explained, “The Hackathon displays the spirit of innovation, which pervades NTPC. Any organisation has to have this spirit of innovation to grow and prosper or otherwise, it would fade away.  I am sure that the NTPC management has told all young engineers that innovation and new ideas are encouraged.”

He added, “This [hackathon] is also innovation in the pursuit of reducing our carbon footprint. From that point of view, all competitors in the Hackathon should keep in mind that the process of converting this (agro residue) to charcoal should not lead to emissions. Another key thing is the commercial model, which will depend on the cost of both the machine and charcoal production. I am sure we will come out with a machine which is economical. I am happy to see the orientation of NTPC towards reducing the carbon footprint.”

Ashish Upadhyay, Additional Secretary of Power said, “The NTPC Group needs to focus on integrated and smart solutions to manage a carbon-neutral economy. I am confident that NTPC will be able to successfully implement and commercialise the technology which will benefit farmers, the environment as well as society”.

An industry expert noted that power plants are the biggest consumers of coal. Typically, a 1,000 MW plant consumes about 5 million tonnes of coal annually. India’s total coal-based power generation capacity is about 200,000 MW, which theoretically can consume approximately 1,000 million tonnes of coal annually. Even 10% of that, if replaced with green charcoal will amount to 100 million tonnes of this fuel. This will require approximately 160 million tonnes of agro residue and municipal waste (considering 60% yield), sufficient to wipe out the entire unused agro residue in the country. Thus, eliminating the farm fires and producing around 20,000 MW of renewable power.

Increasing air pollution due to the burning of stubble and agro residue by local farmers has become a major concern for the country. As a result, NVVN is looking for technologies to convert agricultural waste to a form that can be used in power plants. One such option is torrefaction, which converts the agro residue to green charcoal.

The technology to produce torrefied fuel using agro residue biomass is not easily accessible to small entrepreneurs due to the high costs of imported machines and lack of sufficient manufacturers. The technology to produce torrefied fuel using agro residue biomass, once developed in India, will be made accessible to small entrepreneurs.

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