China's Green Beat 中国绿色脉搏

Green China, make it happen! 绿色中国, 人人有责!

Biomass Power: The potential to replace coal?

eggplant on Feb 8th 2008

China’s Green Beat Episode 3
Biomass Power: The potential to replace coal?
生物发电: 替代燃煤的可能性


Above: Concept illustration of 30MW Shanxian biomass power plant上图:30WM生物发电厂概念图

China has a renewable energy law which outlines a goal for biomass power: 5 gigawatts by 2010 and 30 gigawatts by 2020. That would require 1000 power plants of the type we saw in Shanxian! Although we have seen that biomass power can help farmers monetarily and decrease rural air pollution, China’s agriculture is very small scale. Each farmer only owns a few mu of land, making it very difficult and costly to collect all the biomass, even for a 30 megawatt facility, which is 30 times smaller than an average coal power plant in China (~500MW or 1GW for most coal power plants). It should also be noted that the carbon dioxide balance of biomass power is imperfect, given that carbon dioxide is released during the collection and transportation of the biomass waste. Perhaps biomass would be better suited for smaller scale applications like pellitization for rural heating and cooking. Another option is to co-fire biomass with coal, to reduce the climate impact of coal power plants. For now though we can observe a sign of support at the power plant: “Develop green energy to protect the ecological environment”, and concede that biomass is a righteous effort.

中国的可再生能源法中对于生物发电的目标是到2010年达到装机总量500万千瓦,到2020年3000万千瓦,这相当于1000个像国能单县一样 的生物发电厂。尽管生物发电能帮农民增加额外收入也能减少空气污染,但中国的农业大部分是以小规模为单位的,每个农民只拥有几亩地。所以对于一个规模仅仅 是普通燃煤火力发电厂的三十分之一国能单县,生物质燃料的收集成本也很大。同时由于在收集生物质燃料过程中由于在运输中所消耗的化石燃料,生物质发电并不 能达到完美的平衡。可能,生物质发电更适用于小规模的应用,例如应用于农村的供暖。但是我们还是会说“发展绿色电力,保护生态环境”并承认生物发电对于保 护环境是积极的。

The Cycle of Biomass Power



The cycle of biomass power consists of four main stages: crop growth, crop and waste harvest, waste transport, and waste burning. First, crops are grown, using the sunlight and carbon dioxide as food through photosynthesis. Second, crops are harvested, giving us food/grain and crop waste. Third, crop waste is collected and transported to the biomass power plant. Fourth, the power plant burns the crop waste, creating electricity, carbon dioxide, and fertilizer ash.

生物发电一共有四个主要过程,庄稼生长,收获并获得废料,运输废料,燃烧废料。第一,植物通光合作用利用阳光和二氧化碳进行生长。第二,庄稼收获, 然后获得生物废料。第三,收集这些生物废料并运输到生物发电厂。第四,生物发电厂燃烧这些生物废料发电,释放二氧化碳,并产生肥料灰。


The Shanxian Facility


The Shanxian biomass power plant, operated by National Bio-Energy, has been operating since December 2006. It has a capacity of 30 megawatts and every year will use 150,000-200,000 tons of crop waste, a mixture of cotton stalks, corn cobs, rice hulls, and peanut shells. The plant creates RMB 40 million (USD 5.4 million) of income and 500 job opportunities for local farmers. Additionally, since the waste is not burned in the fields, there is an increase in local air quality. It is a huge task to collect all the waste; they have over ten collection and storage centers located outside of the power plant, as well as enough storage on-site to hold seven days of biomass fuel. Each year, the power plant will save 70,000 tons of standard coal, leading to a decrease of 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide. National Bio-Energy is also developing projects in Henan, Jiangsu, Hebei, Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia, and Xinjiang.

国能单县生物发电厂隶属于国能生物发电有限公司,它已从2006年12开始投产发电。国能单县的装机总量为3万千瓦并且每年将消耗15万-20万吨 生物废料,而生物废料主要由花生壳.稻壳.玉米秸秆混合而成。国能单县能创造4000万收入和500个工作机会给当地农民。另外,因为生物废料不再在田间 焚烧,所以将提高当地的空气质量。收集生物废料也是一件巨大的工作;国能单县有在电厂以外的超过10的存储中心,同时在电厂里也有一个巨大的能储存满足电 厂七天发电所需生物肥料的仓库。每年,国能单县将节省标准煤7万吨并减少10万吨的二氧化碳排放。与此同时国能生物在河南,江苏,河北,辽宁,吉林,黑龙 江,内蒙古以及新疆这些省份也都有发展中的生物发电项目。

Financial Support


The Shanxian facility does receive a lot of financial support from the government and international funds, which have helped contribute to its initial success. First, the government provides a subsidy of RMB 0.25 per every kilowatt hour of energy sold. This allows biomass power to be competitive with coal power, and it ensures that the renewable power will be purchased by the electricity grid company. Second, under the Clean Development Mechanism implemented by the United Nations, the Shanxian was able to receive initial investment support because it qualifies as a project in a developing country that reduces emissions of greenhouse gases.

国能单县的确得到了大量的来自政府以及国际社会的财政支持,这些财政支持保证了它的初步成功。首先,政府提供每度电2角5分的补助,这使生物发电有 能力与燃煤火力发电相竞争同时也确保了可再生能源将被电网公司购买。其次,由于国能单县满足联合国清洁发展机制在发展中国家减少温室气体排放的项目要求, 所以它将能到部分的投资。

  • Pete Braden

    Hey man, found your blog through Couchsurfing. Great stuff. Getting China’s energy problem under control is an economic, political, even moral issue. My own area of interest, closely related, is sustainable agriculture. Anyway keep up the good work, and if you’re ever in Shanghai hit me up for a drink or couch.

  • Sophia Mendelsohn

    Would biomass (or any other renewable energy source) in China be realistic with government support or CDM money? Do you think that they should be given money by either of these sources given what they use land and energy that could be driving up food prices? Do you think the Chinese govt. will continue experimenting with biomass if world food prices rise further? Given all these questions, I lean towards serious skepticism that this could ever replace China’s mountains of coal.

    Great episode, as always.