Renewable Energy Resources in Powering Agriculture

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Renewable Energy is “energy derived from natural processes (e.g. sunlight and wind) that are replenished at a faster rate than they are consumed. Solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, and some forms of biomass are common sources of renewable energy." [1]

On Earth, there are three sources for renewable energy: solar radiation, heat from the Earth’s core (geothermal energy) and gravitational force resulting from planetary movements (tidal power). Energy resulting from solar radiation accounts for about 99.9% of all energy available on Earth.

Even if the renewable energy resources are distributed throughout the world, location plays a huge factor when deciding which resource should be applied and in what level of intensity. Solar and wind energy resources are intermittent in nature – this indicates  that not all resources are suitable for each location, purpose or application. Site-specific analysis is hence crucial. In case of solar energy, equatorial regions are more suitable than far northern and southern regions.

Generally speaking, each location has some sort of renewable energy potential. Sometimes this potential is directly visible and at other times different resources have to be combined. However, there is almost always a way to tap nature’s vast energy supply. To find out about the potential around your area, look for renewable energy projects nearby or talk to your national institutions to access studies on different potentials.

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Overview of Energy Resources and Technologies

Check out the video lecture on energy resources and technologies by Prof. Ramchandra Bhandari, TH Köln – University of Applied Sciences:

Further information on the mentioned MOOC on "Powering Agriculture - Sustainable Energy for Food" and related materials you can find here.

Energy source
Converstion to
Most applied technologies and applications

Solar energy

  • Heat
  • Mechanical energy
  • Electricity
  • Photovoltaic (PV) driven pumps for irrigation
  • Crops, drying of fruits / spices, ice making and cold storage (through absorption or heat driven refrigeration)
  • PV systems are limited to agricultural activities that require little power input only.
  • FAO provides an inventory of PV applications

Wind energy

  • Mechanical energy
  • Electricity
  • Direct use: grinder, mills, mechanical water pumps
  • Electrical water pumps

Option for energy intensive processing activities

Micro hydro energy

  • Mechanical energy
  • Electricity
  • Direct use: mill, grinder
  • Electrical motor for processing

Option for energy intensive processing activities

Biomass energy

  • Heat
  • Electricity
  • Liquied Biofuels
  • Biogas
  • Dryer (fruits, herbs,spices)
  • Fermenter (tea)
  • Combustion motor or electric motor (fuels like ethanol and biodiesel for transportation)
  • Anaerobic digester: biogas for lighting, cooking and heating and industrial biogas for decentralized electricity
  • Biomass is organic material used to generate electricity, to produce heat or biofuels for transportation.
  • Bioenergy is derived from wood, agricultural crops, residues, animal by-products, agro-industrial by-products.

Hybrid power systems

Combine fossil fuel-fired generators with wind or solar electrical power

  • Wind/PV Hybrid
  • Wind/Diesel Hybrid(s)
  • Used in the food-processing sector (grinding of corn, wheat and millet, and milling of grain-hulling paddy)
  • Together, they provide a more reliable and cost effective power system than is possible with either wind, solar or diesel alone.
  • An emerging technology.

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  • Use of renewable energy in rural remote areas of many developing countries could help farmers to increase agricultural productivity as well as to earn more money by value addition to their produces (e.g. controlled drying of fruits and vegetables, cheese production from milk, off-seasonal production of fruits and vegetables with irrigation, etc.)
  • The potential for using REs in the agricultural value chain is plentiful and often has many advantages compared to conventional technologies like diesel generators.
  • A high level of integration of RE into an agricultural process can lead to high efficiencies, low environmental impact and low production costs.
  • There is always some sort of RE resource available in any location, it is just important to choose the adequate source or a good combination of sources.

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Further Readings

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