The Norwegian Climate Investment Fund, managed by Norfund, has made an equity investment of INR 500 crore ($61.3 million) in Punjab-based SAEL that has developed biomass power generation as a solution to stubble burning.
SAEL currently has more than 20 projects, both operating and under construction, in solar and agri waste-to-energy space. It has developed a business model where it purchases paddy crop residue/paddy straw from farmers to produce energy at its biomass power plants.
At the biomass plants, paddy straw, which otherwise would be burned, leading to degradation of soil quality and air pollution, is efficiently converted to energy through an advanced boiler mechanism.
SAEL also installs biomass plants for other customers on a build-operate-transfer basis.
SAEL aims to grow its portfolio to 3 GW over the next five years by adding 100 MW of new biomass and 400 MW of new solar power generation capacity annually in addition to its existing portfolio of 600 MW. Norfund’s investment will help it in the implementation and scaling of the projects.
Every year, farmers in Northern India burn agri stubble in their fields to remove paddy residue, resulting in severe air pollution with devastating health effects in the region. Fine particle matter (PM 2.5) levels rise with the yearly burning of crop stubble and contribute to some of the world’s worst air quality. High levels of PM 2.5 have been linked to health effects such as asthma and decreased lung function, and the burning of crop stubble also contributes to reduced soil quality, requiring increased use of chemicals which causes other health issues.
“By collecting the crop stubble to be used as fuel in our waste-to-energy plants, we contribute to combating one of our nation’s greatest health issues. At the same time, we are creating local employment and generating extra income for farmers and local entrepreneurs,” said Jasbir Awla, chairman and managing director of SAEL Limited.
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