Biomass power generation market in Africa is almost unexplored and the potential is huge. However, it takes lot of time to develop projects in Africa due to various constraints. We have worked continuously for the last 6 years in various biomass projects in Africa right from project concept stage itself.
The saw mills in Africa produce large quantities of wood waste and saw dust. These wood mills are facing electricity shortages from grid and 40 - 100% of their electricity requirement is met with inefficient and very old diesel gensets. The waste produced by the wood mills is mostly open burnt or dumped.
Though saw dust briquetting and pelletizing are good options, transporting pellets and briquettes is a major problem affecting the viability of such projects. Only in some cases these options are viable.
Rice mills are normally of very small size using outdated technology. They are often not connected with grid and use inefficient and old diesel drives. This results in very high milling cost (around 3- 4 times higher than countries like Thailand and India). The new trend in Africa is to switch over to modern large scale rice mills.
Palm oil industries in Africa often use very old fibre fired steam boilers to produce steam to meet their steam demand. The electricity requirement is met by the diesel gensets. Empty fruit bunches (EFB) are mainly burnt in the mill itself and the ash produced is used by soap manufacturers.
Sugar industries are also using old and inefficient bagasse fired boilers to produce steam to meet their processing steam demand and electricity generation is met with diesel gensets. Only few sugar mills of larger capacity go for cogeneration.
In general, rice, palm oil, sugar and wood sectors in Africa are not very competitive compared to other counties like India, Thailand and Malaysia as the energy costs are very high at present, due to their dependency on diesel gensets.
Although several parts of the land are fertile they are not used for agriculture. On the other hand the agricultural productivity is very low, as modern and mechanized practices are not followed. In most of the cases, the agricultural works such as harvesting are done manually.
For the next two decades, Africa has the highest biomass power generation potential in the world. There are two reasons for that:
The current biomass production used for power generation is less than 5% and most of them are decayed or burnt
By modern package of practices, agricultural productions can be increased more than 10 times compared to the present situation
The lessons learnt in Asia and other countries can be used in Africa, so that costly mistakes can be avoided. In most of the cases, projects in Africa are commercially attractive, as the projects generally replace diesel gensets. For those who know how to manage other risks, by joining hands with domestic investors, Africa offers excellent opportunity to invest. We have worked with several biomass projects in Africa with sizes ranging from 3 MWe to 14 MWe.
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