Pine Needle Gasifier

Pine needle gasifier generates 9 KW of electricity in rural village and creates jobs
Pine needle gasifier generates 9 KW of electricity in rural village and creates jobs

“Monoculture pine forests that have infested the middle level elevations of Himalayan region are depriving the local population of availability of water, fodder and fuel wood.

On one hand, pine needles which litter the forest floor during dry summer months form a carpet on the soil causing the rainwater to run down the slopes before it percolates into the soil. On the other hand, the highly inflammable pine needles cause forest fires which deprive all other species except pine (trunk being fire resistant) from regenerating.

In continuation of our work with appropriate technology, AVANI has been exploring the possibility of harnessing the destructive energy of pine needles that litter the forest floor. We have been working on the idea of using pine needles as feedstock for a biomass gasifier to produce electricity.

After many years of exploring and researching, a 9 kW pine needle gasifier system has been developed and installed in this year, as a pilot, at AVANI campus. This system is fully operational and generates 9 KW of electricity. Out of this 9 KW, 1.5 KW is consumed for running the system and a continuous output of 7.5 KW is available for productive use such as welding and calendering applications. Work is also ongoing to study the economic viability of such systems and a report will be brought out once the studies are complete.”

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10 thoughts on “Pine Needle Gasifier”

  1. I would think there would be a safety issue during construction. Consider, you would first be making large piles of dry pine needles. Your best building times are during warm, dry weather. You would then be placing flammable needles inside plastic bags and compressing them, so if any of them are, well, needles, they will be poking holes in them, both compromising structure and providing an airway. Once everything was behind a nice nonflammable plaster you’d probably be fine, but prior to that point you’d be essentially building with easy light charcoal briquettes. Oh, and be sure to never invite someone with a pine allergy to your home unless you’re planning their murder.

  2. I’ve slept on a mattress made of Pine Needles while backpacking.

    I mounded then up and flattened them out with my bare hands with no problems.

    Slept like a baby.

    The only prickly situation I recall from backpacking were mosquito bites after falling asleep leaving the tent flap open. Dang vampires. I think I lost a couple of pints of blood that night. I had welts on my face for over a week afterward. Looked like I was infected with chicken pox.

    Okay. To be completely honest, I did have another prickly incident backpacking, but it was on a different trip. It involved a jumpin’ cholla. It snagged on the loose end of my pack’s belt strap then whipped around and landed about an inch away from my crotch. … but I digress. There were no pine trees in the area to blame. Only my brother being a prick by laughing hysterically at my predicament and being of no assistance whatsoever.

  3. Why is handling pine needles an acceptable task for feeding a gasifier, but unacceptable for wall building?

    The only problem with handling pine needles that I can think of is finding dry ones. That is mostly factor of only harvesting fresh ones after an extended dry period, and then protecting them from moisture until encased inside a wall (or fed into a gasifier.) Pretty much the same concerns one has about harvesting straw and building strawbale walls.

    A rake and a tarp make for relatively easy harvesting by hand. I suspect that an ordinary lawn leaf vacuum should make filling earthbags an easy task. I think. I confess that I’ve never attempted it with pine needles. Seems like it should work well.

    As long as the pine needles are dry, why would they be any more of a decomposition risk inside a wall as a dry strawbale?

    For that matter, why would bagged pine needles be logistically that much different than straw wattles?

    If someone has easy access to an abundance of needles, it might be fun to build a small test wall, or possibly a small shed, just to find out how well they might perform. At this point, that is all I’m suggesting. Just an experiment and see where it leads.

    I have little doubt that the original Nebraska strawbale builders were scoffed at by some. Yet some brave soul took the idea, and played around with it (and probably several failed ideas) until he/she came up with a system that worked well. Then the idea got passed along. There are probably some people that still scoff at strawbale, but clearly the concept works and is gaining acceptance. I don’t know the stories of their failed attempts, but I’m confident that their failed attempts helped them learn how to eventually make strawbale a success.

    I imagine there are many people in mountainous areas surrounded by pine trees that have limited local options for a well insulated structure. Not just around the Himalayas.

    I’m NOT recommending that anyone invest their life savings in building a home out of earthbagged pine needles. As far as I know it’s an untested idea, but every idea we currently use had its first experiment and started somewhere.

    What I DO recommend is that people feel free to experiment with this or other new/unusual ideas on a small scale. It can be great fun. I hope people share their results (successful or not) with everyone when they do attempt a new and/or unusual idea.

    • Try it and see. It doesn’t sound very promising to me. Like I said, they’re awkward to work with. They’re prickly little suckers.

  4. I wonder how flammable pine needles would be once they had been stuffed inside an earthbag, laid in a wall, and plastered on both sides?

    It might make for an affordable superinsulated house at altitude.

    Or it might make a fire trap. I’m not sure.

    It might make for a fun test wall and fire video if someone wants to try it to find out. I’d do it, but there’s not a lot of pine trees around here.

    • Pine needles are a little difficult to handle and so it would be awkward filling bags. Also, pine needles might eventually decompose in the wall.

    • The key here is the pine trees are an invasive species that are screwing up the environment. This seems like a clever solution to minimize the damage and generate low cost electricity.


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