A few large farm equipment makers
claim using paddy stubble
as fuel in state-owned power plants will hardly solve the problem of annual spike in pollution in the northern states.
In a bid to reduce paddy stubble burning
that leads to massive air pollution in the National Capital Region and surrounding areas every winter, the government is aggressively pushing for state-run power plants to use at least 10 per cent of the leftover stubble as fuel. Some farm equipment makers, however, claim the straw produced by paddy farming is way more than the total capacity of power plants in the northern states.
According to industry estimates, Punjab
alone produces about 20 million tonnes of paddy stubble
in a single season. Thermal power plants in the state have a capacity to absorb about 0.7 million tonnes. The state is one of the big producers of paddy in the country. Along with neighbouring Haryana, it currently has around 250-odd mechanised balers, which convert paddy straw into biomass, ready for use by power plants.
The government recently directed state-owned NTPC
to blend close to 10 per cent of stubble in their fuel mix.
The power giant would float a tender to buy farm stubble at ~5,500 per tonne for power plants. This could help farmers earn about ~11,000 per acre, officials said. Big farm equipment manufacturers, however, are concerned that this model would be economically viable only if contractors who run the expensive mechanised cutters, rakers, and balers get adequate economic value for the paddy stubble
bales. The transportation cost of compressed paddy stubble
is also very high. Power plants need to be located within 15-20 km radius of fields, industry players said.
“Unless the biomass gets a financial return of over ~1,350 per tonne as bare minimum price, it is not viable for the contractors to operate the expensive machines,” Himanshu Saini, product marketing manager, CLAAS Agricultural Machinery, told Business Standard.