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A new study shows that India’s sugar mills produce 2 GW of biomass-based energy—equal to that of windmills—but have the potential to produce 5.1 GW through cogeneration.

Now, 5.1 GW is not exactly eye-popping. India’s total installed capacity is about 150 GW, so OK, this is less than 5% of what India needs and will be an even smaller percentage soon, what with India’s skyrocketing acceleration in electricity needs. Plus, 5GW it is a significant percentage of the country’s electricity deficit. While this makes it that much more worthwhile to consider, what I find really interesting is that the study shows that while the sugar mills and windmills both produce about 2 GW of energy, sugar mills do it at half the cost. The method by which this electricity is generated from the sugar mills is by the use of bagasse, the left over after extraction of sugar.

Now, how is it possible to produce electricity at such a low cost from bagasse? The trick is cogeneration – this is the method by which one gets both electricity and heat from the same source. Read more on cogeneration from here. Using CHP (combined heat and power) plant technology, today companies (especially sugar manufacturers) can derive additional energy, value and revenues from their wastes.

Reading the article further, I understand that with process and efficiency improvements, cogeneration could generate as much as 10 GW (not sure if this data is for cogeneration from bagasse alone or from all cogeneration efforts). Oh well, at 10 GW, it becomes even more attractive.