Energy self-sufficiency from renewable sources, 16th May 2016, By Ravi Ladduwahetty
Similarly, it is time ripe now for the new government to think afresh and take bold steps in development of renewable power by rapid development of renewable energy sources by inviting the world leaders in biomass and renewable power development elsewhere to assist us as former President J.R. Jayewardene did with the Accelerated Mahaweli Development Plan by taking bold and pragmatic steps.

If this second UNP Government dares to take bolder steps, renewable energy from our own sources could be the second accelerated country development programme even surpassing the developments that were ushered in through Mahaweli Development.

Let Sri Lanka use its location being the paradise of the tropics in the Indian Ocean harvest the ultimate nonpolluting source of energy, the sun through biomass and other renewables available here itself.

Renewable power fuel GDP Growth spanning whole of Sri Lanka would be bound to create thousands of gainful employment opportunities and export of biomass in various forms now referred to as green coal.

Sri Lanka is currently being prepared for it by United Nations Development Programme-assisted renewable energy projects beginning with 06 biomass based Energy terminals to be established in six different districts, namely Kurunegala, Galle, Ratnapura, Gampaha, Nuwara Eliya and Moneragala.

Sourcing of Raw Materials

The terminal will accept only sustainably grown fuel wood. The primary source of supply will be from homesteads and small farmers in the area surrounding the location of the terminal. The Moneragala District is essentially a rural farming district where the principal income to the people is through farming. Therefore, this is targeted as the main sector of supply.

The species identified as falling into the category of sustainably grown short rotation coppicing (SRC) trees are:
Gliricidiasepium (Gliricedia)
Leucenaleucocephala (Ipil Ipil)
Acacia aurucoloformis
Cassia spectabilis (Kaha Kona)
Casiabasilaris (Wal Ehela)
Prosopisjuliflora (Kalapu Andara)
Cinnamo mumzelanicum (Kurundu)
Tremaorientalis (Geduma)
Energy crops such as Miscanthus, Erianthus wild cane (S. spontaneum)
High fibre energy crops such as Bamboo (Bambusabambos-KatuUna) Giant bamboo- Dendrcalamus and Ochlandra bamboo have huge potential in pelleting and bricketting.

However, Gliricidia is considered the main species to be targeted due to its prevalence and the multiple spin off benefits to the growers, thus enhancing sustainability. The significant extents of pepper plantations in the district, ensures a ready source of supply of Gliricidia.
Surveys conducted over the past many years of the availability as well as promotional activities to further enhance the supply has indicated the potential for achieving the required supplies to meet the targets of the terminal, comfortably.

In addition, encouragement will be given for larger plantations to be established by land owners with adequate extents of land, preferably as mixed plantations with other cash crops to ensure long-term sustainability of supplies and to enable expansion of the production. This option is under negotiation.

Raw Material for Briquetting

In order to add value to the substantial amounts of agricultural waste which are likely to be generated in the farming area surrounding the terminal location, the briquetting operation has been planned. While accurate data is not available at the moment the types of agricultural waste that will be targeted are:
Sugar Cane bagasse and tops
Corn silage
Paddy straw
Rice husk
Mana Grass, Rambuk and Elephant grass
In addition the dust and bark from the chipping operation would also constitute a feed material for the briquetting operation.
The surveys have indicated that the following Divisional Secretary divisions close to the location of the terminal.
The Number of DS Divisions
1. Medagama/Madulla -
75 GN Divisions 20 km
2. Bibile/Badalkumbura -
88 GN Divisions 30 km
3. Monaragala/Buttala -
31 GN Divisions 15 km
4. Siyambalanduwa -
15 GN Divisions 40 km
Accordingly, the average distance for the supplies will be about 30 km , with a maximum of 50 km to the furthest.
Replace coal plants with renewable power
Power generation has a prime seat in this context as one unit of power is nearly equivalent to one unit of GDP as GDP growth is a mirror image of power generation. If this exercise can be coupled to employment creation, then power generation becomes a prime candidate in government options for country development.

Coal power was considered as the prime candidate to fill the gap ignoring the greatest danger paused to the general public of having highly polluting Coal power plants as against zero emission renewable power systems.

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