25 OCTOBER 2012
Renewable Energy Can Benefit Farmers
A Department of Energy (DOE) official underscored the major role that the country’s farmers would fill up as the government pushes more toward the development of renewable energy (RE).
According to DOE Undersecretary Jose Layug Jr., the agricultural sector has great potential in becoming the Department’s partner in developing RE projects in the countryside, particularly on agricultural wastes for biomass plants.
“We want to put up more biomass power plants because they are cheaper in cost and can help provide for additional income for farmers,” Layug said Wednesday in a Renewable Energy Forum organized by the Management Association of the Philippines — Agri-business Countryside Development Foundation.
In highlighting the role of local farmers, the official noted several studies which said the Philippines could produce big volumes of agricultural wastes such as bagasse (fibrous remains from sugarcane), coconut husks and rice hulls.
These residual matters can all be tapped to produce alternative fuel, Layug said.
The DOE said the country’s potential for biomass production stands at only 235 megawatts (mW).
“The reason for such a small number is that we haven’t finalized yet our resource assessment on biomass. What we’re proposing is to bring these biomass plants near the area where these agricultural products are being grown,” Layug said.
The DOE is currently conducting research and development (R&D) on feed stocks like cassava and sweet sorghum in efforts to increase potential energy from biomass. (Ellson Quismorio)
“We could ask the farmer to plant those crops but right now we’re still in the R&D stage. Usually, it’s the investors that apply for a service contract before the DoE. The investors would then approach the farmers to purchase their agricultural wastes,” he said.
Layug said the outcome of the R&D will be made known to investors once the results are finalized. While there are no specific areas being targeted for biomass production, he said the DoE is in search of other sources of agricultural wastes around the country.
As for Jetropha being used as possible source for biomass, Layug said initial study results “have not been so encouraging”.
“We’re hoping it will yield more oil, but based on the study provided by UP Los Banos, the results have not been so encouraging. They need to study it further.”
Meanwhile, Layug said that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are providing the Energy Department with technical assistance on the development of wind energy and biomass, respectively.
He added that the Japan International Cooperation for Assistance (JICA) had just finished its resource assessment for potential run-of-river hydroelectric power plants in Luzon and Visayas, while a German company is currently assisting the DoE on solar projects.
“All multi-national and global funding agencies have moved toward renewable energy as well,” he said.
Read article source in Manila Bulletin