Had an interesting visit earlier today to meet a friend of mine and EAI for a long time – Divakaran of Acclaim Energy.
Acclaim Energy is a small but highly bio-energy focussed firm, run by Chandramouli and Divakaran, both of them having a long experience in the renewable energy sector in general and bio-energy in particular.
We had worked on a few projects in bio-energy in the past, especially in biomass gasifier based applications. Along the way, I had seen Acclaim do some interesting work in Biochar, Biomethanation and energy plantations, not to forget some solid work they had done for some large companies in biomass gasifier based heating for industrial applications, esp the food and beverages industries.
And in fact today’s visit to meet Divakaran was in the context of biomass-based heating, this time for a restaurant he runs – the Kalpaka restaurant.
As I have in many previous posts here and at the EAI Club explained, biomass based energy, while having trouble in power generation application (mainly because of unremunerative tariffs), has a high competitive advantage when it comes to heating. This is simply because the alternatives (LPG, furnace oil, diesel, natural gas) are far more expensive, and will likely will only get more so with time.
As I have pointed out in this post, biomass based heating can deliver savings of anywhere between 40-70% over traditional fossil fuels.
Which is why Divakar decided to start using biomass based heating for his own restaurant.
And from what I heard from him today, the results are quite attractive.
Earlier, the restaurant was using LPG for its cooking operations. Now, Divakar has installed a biomass stove that can use most types of wood.
The economic benefits are not difficult to see:
- While LPG costs Rs 65 a Kg, biomass costs about Rs 8 a Kg. Conservatively, we can say that we require 4 Kg of biomass for to deliver the same calorific value as 1 Kg of LPG.
- Thus, to provide the same CV as 1 Kg of LPG (costing Rs 65), you need to only spend 8*4 = Rs 32 for biomass.
- That is, biomass-based heating is 50% cheaper than LPG.
And, it is available 24X7, similar to LPG (the same cannot be said about solar thermal, for instance)
Sure, sometimes biomass could cost more than Rs 8 (and sometimes, it can cost less than Rs 8 too if bought in bulk). Even at a cost of Rs 10 per Kg, you are looking at a saving of about 40%.
So you can see that from an economics point of view, use of biomass over conventional fossil fuels is a no-brainer.
While biomass stoves are not new (why, most rural India has been using some crude forms of these stoves for many decades!), the biomass stove used at the restaurant is a high efficiency stove.
It produces more bang for the buck by having an efficiency of almost 85%, much higher than the 60-65% thermal efficiency of many other biomass stoves in the market.
What is the magic that gives these stoves the extra efficiency?
It is a combination of the stove enclosure design and the presence of an air blower.
The air blower is especially interesting -it circulates the air such that the combustion efficiency overall is much higher. This is something you would not have seen in most biomass stoves.
With an optimal air circulation ensured by the blower, the special design of the biomass enclosure in the stove ensures that such circulation is captured such that the efficiency is maximised.
Thus, this twin combination of air blower and optimised stove design results in a much higher efficiency than normal biomass stoves.
The biomass heating system at Kalpaka restaurant thus has two key benefits: Biomass as a fuel has a cost advantage over costlier fuels such as LPG and natural gas. The optimized stove with a higher efficiency enhances the cost benefits even more.
The stove has been in operation for the past couple of months; it is working quite fine, with little or no smoke too.
- One question that popped in my mind was about the need for continuous operations for biomass stoves, which is not a problem for LPG stoves.
- For instance, if your business operations require on and off heating, biomass stoves might indeed result in a lot of wastage.
- What Divakar tells me is that, in such cases, businesses could opt for a hybrid – use biomass stoves for those operations that require continuous heating, and use LPG or diesel for those that are intermittent. Typically, fuel required for continuous operations will form the majority of the fuel requirement (over 80% in most restaurants), so to that extent, substituting fossil fuels with biomass for these operations will result in significant savings – even if you continue using costly LPG for the minority intermittent applications.
Divakaran at his restaurant that shifted over to biomass stoves from LPG
Overall, I felt the biomass stoves were an option many medium and large commercial entities require significant heating for their operations can look at.
Those keen on knowing how Acclaim Energy can help them with the biomass stoves can send a note to Divakaran at his email – email@example.com . The company will be glad to talk to entrepreneurs who could work with them as agents for this technology.