Biogas production for rural energy need by livstock is becoming an alternative that can not be put down with the rising eenergy crises worldwide. Below is an extract from China rural energy enhencement project.
Biomass gasification is believed to be an ideal means of efficiently disposing large quantities of agricultural waste as well as a way to relieve poverty by increasing farmers' incomes.
North China's Shanxi Province, a major coal producer of the country, has been developing farm-based biogas projects since 2003. It has set a good example for other areas of the country that are highly dependent on coal. Our reporter Xiao Hong has more.
In the past, many farmers in Shanxi Province in North China disposed of large quantities of agricultural waste inappropriately. Crop residue burned in open fields, and animal waste polluted streams and groundwater. This was not only harmful for the environment, but also resulted in a loss of potential energy and nutrient resources.
But the use of biogas digesters has proved to be an effective way to reduce farmers' dependence on coal, straw, and firewood for heating and cooking. The digesters generate cleaner, renewable energy and have improved the quantity and quality of the vegetables the farmers produce.
Wu Ailing (伍爱玲) is a 45-year-old woman in Xiguan (西关) village, Qixian (祁县)County. Her family built a biomass plant eight years ago.
"The biogas produced by the plant is quite sufficient for my cooking and lighting. It saves me over 1,000 yuan in buying coal every year. It's quite safe and convenient."
Wu uses animal waste from her biogas digester pool as fertilizer. She says she can sell her vegetables fertilized with the waste for 30 percent more at market than those fertilized with chemicals.
But for many other farm households, biomass technology faces numerous constraints and barriers. Many farmers cannot obtain loans to set up biogas digesters. They also do not possess the technical expertise needed to start such projects. And there are few policy incentives encouraging farmers to switch to biogas.
In 2003, Shanxi Province invested more than 8 million U.S. dollars along with another 8 million dollars in the form of a loan from the Asian Development Bank to help local farm households establish biogas digesters and biomass gasification plants for clean energy production.
At the same time, the province used a Global Environmental Facility grant worth 840 thousand U.S. dollars to train farmers how to use biogas digesters and how to farm more efficiently.
More than 5,000 farm households and medium-sized enterprises have benefited from the program to date.
The Xinxing (新兴) company in Jiaocheng (交城) County received a 200-thousand-U.S. dollar loan from the Asian Development Bank to expand its breeding capacity from 2,200 pigs to 9,000 next year. It has built a large-scale biomass gasification plant to dispose of pig dung and produce biogas at its new factory base currently under construction.
Ren Jianquan (任建全) is an agricultural official with Jiaocheng County.
"Now 100 households enjoy biogas produced by the plant for free. The company's goal is to serve 300 households after the new base is put into use. The biogas supply is now quite stable. Users can get energy at 11 o'clock every morning."
Ren says the energy will be priced at 1.2-1.5 yuan per cubic meter in the future. Most of the farmers who now use the free service say the price is fair.
Liu Wenyong (刘文勇), deputy director of the Shanxi Rural Energy Office, says other regions in China can draw on the province's experience to set up similar biogas projects using both domestic and foreign funding.
"First, by using a GEF grant and domestic funding, we have trained a group of skilled people. Second, guided by international institutions while using foreign funds, we have gained experience in bidding, purchasing facilities, and pre-auditing, and can make our project more efficient. Third, we have set some good examples for future programs."
The province now wants to develop large-scale gasification plans to cover more villages and set up biogas projects in remote mountainous areas.