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    Mongabay, a leading resource for news and perspectives on environmental and conservation issues related to the tropics, has launched Tropical Conservation Science - a new, open access academic e-journal. It will cover a wide variety of scientific and social studies on tropical ecosystems, their biodiversity and the threats posed to them. Tropical Conservation Science - March 8, 2008.

    At the 148th Meeting of the OPEC Conference, the oil exporting cartel decided to leave its production level unchanged, sending crude prices spiralling to new records (above $104). OPEC "observed that the market is well-supplied, with current commercial oil stocks standing above their five-year average. The Conference further noted, with concern, that the current price environment does not reflect market fundamentals, as crude oil prices are being strongly influenced by the weakness in the US dollar, rising inflation and significant flow of funds into the commodities market." OPEC - March 5, 2008.

    Kyushu University (Japan) is establishing what it says will be the world’s first graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. The new master’s program for hydrogen engineering is to be offered at the university’s new Ito campus in Fukuoka Prefecture. Lectures will cover such topics as hydrogen energy and developing the fuel cells needed to convert hydrogen into heat or electricity. Of all the renewable pathways to produce hydrogen, bio-hydrogen based on the gasification of biomass is by far both the most efficient, cost-effective and cleanest. Fuel Cell Works - March 3, 2008.

    An entrepreneur in Ivory Coast has developed a project to establish a network of Miscanthus giganteus farms aimed at producing biomass for use in power generation. In a first phase, the goal is to grow the crop on 200 hectares, after which expansion will start. The project is in an advanced stage, but the entrepreneur still seeks partners and investors. The plantation is to be located in an agro-ecological zone qualified as highly suitable for the grass species. Contact us - March 3, 2008.

    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2008.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Revolution in the kitchen: 5000 Indian rural households receive smokeless biomass pellet stove

Over 5,000 rural households in the Madurai and Virudhunagar districts of Tamil Nadu state in India now have smokeless kitchens and a way to cut their household fuel bill by up to 50%. No longer do housewives and children have to put up with the smoke pollution coming from burning wood on open fires or kerosene in inefficient stoves - a true killer in the kitchen which, according to the WHO, costs up to 2 million lives annually in the developing world (earlier post). Nor do they have to bear the expensive LPG cylinder bills which drain household budgets.

This revolution in the kitchen is the result of the introduction of the smokeless 'Oorja' biomass stoves promoted by BP Energy India Limited. Developed in conjunction with the Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore, the stoves run on pellets made from local agricultural waste. The success of a pilot study of the stove in Tamil Nadu and Maharastra, which began in 2006, has encouraged the promoters to expand their operation to Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. According to a BP spokesperson, the stove has already reached 25,000 customers in the country. A small segment of the 2 billion people in the developing world who still rely on extremely inefficient and unhealthy cooking methods.

Many initiatives and attempts are underway to develop cooking stoves that reduce energy consumption. Traditional cooking methods such as burning wood and dung on open fires, can waste up to 90% of the energy contained in the fuel. This incredible inefficiency is a key driver of deforestation and, recent research shows, a serious culprit of climate change (earlier post). A good stove can help solve these problems, but it is not easy to design an appropriate device. Minimal requirements are:
  • a reduction of smoke pollution and particulate emissions
  • a radical increase energy efficiency
  • affordability and easy to use by rural households (this is a tall order, given that millions of households live on less than 2 dollars per day)
  • blend in with local cultural views on cooking, cuisine and using energy (high-tech devices will often not succeed; the famous example is that of stoves that can't be used to make flat types of bread)
  • be fuelled by locally available resources
Some designs rely on the use of liquid biofuels, others on biogas, solid biomass or bio-based gel fuels, but most are too expensive or may be too high-tech (such as the biomass powered thermoaccoustic device or the biogas powered stirling generator being developed).

The 'Oorja' stove however is one of the few designs that meets all the necessary requirements. Importantly, the device only costs around 675 rupiah (€12.2/US$16.6). The stove has a chamber for burning pellets and a mini-fan, powered by rechargeable batteries and controlled by a regulator, which blows air to fan the flames. The technology increases combustion efficiency, reduces fuel costs for the household by up to 50 percent and provides users with the option of using cleaner fuel.

The stove has helped C. Kasturi, of Perungudi in Madurai district, cut fuel cost by 50 percent. "For our family of six, we require 20 litres of kerosene every month. We get only 10 litres from the ration shop [for 90 rupiah]. We had to shell out more money for buying another 10 litres in the open market. [Now it costs around 30 rupiah a litre]." However, by using the stove, the family consumes only six bags of pellets (a 5-kg bag costs 20 rupiah) and three litres of kerosene. This combination of fuel costs her only 147 rupiah a month, whereas she was spending 390 rupiah a month earlier:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

"However, making 'dosas' and 'chappatis' is a problem, as the stove generates excessive heat. Besides, once it is lit, it cannot be stopped unlike LPG or kerosene stoves. Refuelling cannot be done midway," Ms. Kasturi says. The entire ash has to be replaced, and the stove has to be lit afresh. Though this can be done in a few minutes, Ms. Kasturi has learnt to finish cooking within the 75 minutes (the maximum burning time using 450 grams of pellets) by keeping vegetables and utensils ready before lighting the stove.

N. Muneeswari, one of the women of Aviyur in Virudhunagar district, has tested the stove too and says: "Cooking is faster with this stove. It leaves no smoke, so the utensils are very clean." For a joint family of five couples and children, the stove is used for making "sambar," "koottu" and "poriyal." The group still prefer the traditional open stoves to cook rice in large quantity. She has almost abandoned LPG stove ever since she started using this one in August last year.

BP Energy India is focussing on rural areas where people have limited, or no, access to clean and safer energy owing to economic reasons or poor service.

Picture: Smokeless 'Oorja' biomass stove that runs on burning pellets made up of agricultural waste being used in a house at Aviyur in Virudhunagar district. Credit: The Hindu.

The Hindu: A stove and a smokeless kitchen - July 2, 2007.

Biopact: "Researchers develop biomass powered "refrigerator-stove-generator" for developing world", May 12, 2007

Biopact: Bosch and Siemens introduce biofuel cooking stove for developing world - May 20, 2007

Biopact: Biogas powered stirling generator for the developing world - June 29, 2007

Biopact: Ethanol gel fuel for cooking stoves revolutionizing African households - August 11, 2006


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is not said in the article is that the traditional wood used by villagers had absolutely no global environmental impacts on a Life Cycle perspective. Wood is generally harvested near houses and does not implicate transports or other processes than sun drying. On the other hand, the processing and transport of stove adds to the emission and crops used to make the pellets carry the environmental burden of fertilisers which cause huge emissions of GHG.

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I'm also anonymous, hope noone gets additionally confused by all this anonymity,

Your statement makes some assumptions that _might_ not be true.
1. When traditional wood gathering takes up 4-6 hrs. a day for over half the population, putting them at danger from bandits, islamo-fascists, etc. and keeps them from ever going to school, and takes up over half their spendable income if they are not in a traditional wood gathering society and causes several million deaths, high rate of blindness in new-borns, etc. it _might_ be something to try to get away from.
2. Have you ever carried 30kg of wood sticks on your head for several hours? And that's not enough to get through a day the traditional way of cooking.
3. Do you really think they have time to dry the wood?
4. Did you _see_ the picture accompanying the article and _think_ about it?
5. Are you certain that the grasses used in the pellet production necessitate "the environmental burden of fertilisers which cause huge emissions..."?
I think not.

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am student of National Institute of Design,India specializing in product design I am working on design of "portable chullah with storage" for handicapped women in rural India.portable chullah which can be rolled carried or dragged anywhere with storage of basic cooking recipe like spices, tea etc. and utencils.I am focusing on universal design.I think Oorja is already one step towards the concept of Universal design making certain improvements it can be used for people who are disabled in many ways(asthma,handicapped,crippled,old age). i think its great achievement.

1:45 PM  
Anonymous D. Smith said...

Can someone please tell me where I can buy one of these Oorja pellet stoves please?: [email protected]

5:42 AM  

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