Private firms show interest in plan to use Napier grass as energy source
March 09, 2013 00:00 By Watcharapong Thongrung
More than 100 companies have advised the Energy Ministry of their interest in investing in power stations fuelled by Napier grass by-products, the Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency says.
The department aims at encouraging cassava farmers to switch about 5 million rai (800,000 hectares) of plantation area to Napier grass, also know as elephant grass or Ugandan grass. The plant can be converted into biogas and used as a fuel to generate power.
Amnuay Thongsatit, director-general of the department, said private firms had expressed interest in the project even though its criteria have not yet come out.
This gives weight to the government’s anticipation of generating up to 10,000 megawatts of electricity from this biofuel source over a 10-year period.
The project was initially discussed by a joint committee of representatives from nine ministries, which has been set up by a resolution of the ministry’s Energy Policy and Planning Office to find an appropriate model that would encourage farmers to group together into a community state enterprise or agricultural cooperative.
Napier glass will be planted in three pilot areas – dry areas, wetlands and land unsuitable for rice, in the Northern, Central and Northeastern regions.
Each region will build a 1MW power plant on a 1,000-rai plot at a cost of about Bt100 million.
The results of the study will be reported to the Energy Policy and Planning Office.
Amnuay said the joint committee was studying the possibility of using half of the total 10 million rai for the Pak Chong 1 variety of Napier grass, whose plantation life span is about eight years.
It is believed that Napier grass would give farmers a better return than cassava, while also reducing the impact of energy-price fluctuations on the national power grid.