Energy farming

We use this term in the very broadest sense to mean the production of fuels or energy as a main or subsidiary product of agriculture (fields), silviculture (forests), aquaculture (fresh and sea water), and also of industrial or social activities that produce organic waste residues, e.g. food processing, urban refuse. Table 11.1 gives some examples from an almost endless range of opportunities. The main purpose of the activity may be to produce energy (as with wood lots), but more commonly it is found best to integrate the energy and biofuel production with crop or other biomass material products.

An outstanding and established example of energy farming is the sugarcane industry (Figure 11.3). The process depends upon the combustion of the crushed cane residue (bagasse) for powering the mill and factory operations. With efficient machinery there should be excess energy for the production and sale of by-products, e.g. molasses, chemicals, animal feed, ethanol, fibre board and electricity. Commonly the ethanol becomes a component of transport fuel and the excess electricity is sold to the local grid.

Table I I.I Biomass supply and conversion examples

Biomass source or fuel

8 iofuel

Conversion technology

Approx.

Energy required

Approx. range of energy

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