Bamboo as Sustainable Biomass Energy
Bamboo is a plant that provides considerable environmental benefits. It is used for ecological purposes such as soil stabilisation and erosion prevention on hill slopes and verges. It is a very important forestry plant, which is harvested from existing natural forests, plantations, and mixed agroforestry systems. Bamboo silviculture is an option for conserving and protecting tropical forests while creating enduring supplies for the wood and cellulose industries.
There has been a growing awareness in recent years that bamboo is a vital component of development and an effective means to improve the livelihoods of rural poor people.
Bamboo is a natural vehicle for development because rural people generally have adequate access to it. It can be easily grown and harvested in the perimeter of forest areas or under agroforestry schemes. Bamboo agroforestry requires only a modest capital investment and generates steady income to farmers.
Estimates regarding future use of bamboo indicate that there will be a huge shortage for bamboo planting material in medium and long term.
Biotechnology research and plant breeding in bamboo led to the development of bamboo species that offers a solution for energy: under proper cultivation, bamboo can yield over 100 tons of biomass annually per hectare.
Bamboo has an energy value of 4000 Kcal/kg with an ash content of 1 to 3% and has a low production cost (30% of that of coal). Bamboo has lowest ash content compared with commonly available agri-waste rice husk (20% ash content) or coal (10 – 20% ash content).
Bamboo helps to clean the environment by providing oxygen and at the same time also helping earn carbon credit. A well-grown bamboo plantation is able to sequester close to 200 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare annually, which in terms of carbon trading is equivalent to 200 CER. Carbon credits may help in creation of jobs and wealth generation. Again, it can be start up fund for various bamboo related developmental projects.
Cultivation of Bamboo, apart from providing sustainable biomass and cleaning-up the atmospheric air of CO2, is also capable of absorbing water which is not fit for regular agriculture and also water from effluent treated plant (ETP) in industries. A well-designed and well-managed bamboo grove can absorb substantial quantity of ETP water, which process could be 10 to 14 times faster than the ground evaporation and which further provides income through biomass generation and carbon credit that sustains its operations.
Among the many benefits of bamboo being used as biomass, one is the ash generation which is very less as compared to many other biomass sources. In the integrated bamboo energy farming practice, ash is returned to the Bamboo farms balancing the quantum of minerals and nutrients depleted from the soil and further improving sustainability of soil nutrient. The key factor for the success of the project is the scientific cultivation of bamboo adopting precision farming know-how combined with high quality disease free, high yielding species of bamboo.
The development of the bamboo sector will not only generate income for both men and women, but will also benefit the growth of rural economies in bamboo growing regions/countries. The required inputs for bamboo plantations include seedlings, land cost, labour, management and fertilizers and the total investment is about 1300 US$/ha for a new bamboo plantation, the cost of bamboo stand management can be recovered fast because bamboo grows fast and productive stands are established in 3-4 years.
The integrated project consists in generating green electricity by gasification of the biomass generated out of bamboo based energy plantation.