The University of Newcastle, Australia

Sustainable energy research powers developing world

Friday, 28 August 2015

A breakthrough sustainable energy technology at the University of Newcastle (UON) could help solve the global challenge of rural electrification in developing countries.

Professor Behdad Moghtaderi and Dr Kalpit Shah 

The $1.1 million project, led by Dr Kalpit Shah and Professor Behdad Moghtaderi, both based at UON's Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER), will establish a demonstration site of the technology in India, which could then be deployed to other developing nations.

Funded by Industry partner VTara Energy Group Pty Ltd, the project is aimed at solving a missing link in the gasification of biomass – using agricultural waste and by-product to generate heat and electricity.

Professor Behdad Moghtaderi said the technology could have implications for almost two billion people globally who do not have access to modern fuels such as oil and gas.

"Inadequate access to energy threatens human health, economic growth and limits opportunities for education. This project is an example of the role Australia can play in supporting global economic development.

"By collaborating with industry, we can apply research knowledge to real world problems with great impact," said Professor Moghtaderi.

Dr Shah said the demonstration plant will address key issues including fuel flexibility, tar removal and heat recovery in the gasifier.

"Our research will deliver the science to overcome the technological barriers associated with biomass utilisation, enabling this sustainable energy technology to be rolled out on a global scale," said Dr Shah.

VTara Energy Group is the parent company of Tara Green Energy Pty Ltd., a company that has a long-standing interest in delivering sustainable energy solutions to India.  Tara Green Energy currently has several projects in southern India using  biomass, solar and hydro  technologies.  Mr Clive Stephens, Chairman and CEO of the VTara Energy Group, said tar removal was a long-standing barrier to cost effectively utilising gas from biomass to generate electricity.

"Removal of tar by products from biomass gas is a known problem in successful and cost effective conversion into electricity. By working with UON we can achieve our goal of implementing ground-breaking sustainable energy technology in a region with limited existing resources.

"The development of gasification-based biomass energy delivery systems is a scientific and engineering contribution that will provide a new, disruptive technology in the sustainable energy arena. 

"One of VTara's core beliefs is that by bringing biomass-based sustainable technologies to rural areas, VTara not only delivers energy, but provides jobs that will enhance the development of the rural sector, help sustain rural  populations and contribute to the bioremediation of rural environments," he said.   

The demonstration plant, due for implementation in 2017, will initially generate power and heat for a village district in the state of Karnataka and is supported by the University's Priority Research Centre for Frontier Energy Technology and Utilisation, NIER and Newcastle Innovation.


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