LOLC pioneers eco-friendly dendro power at Bundala

Invasive Kalapu Andara’ chips will part-feed generators



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BY SURESH PERERA


The LOLC Group last week announced plans to diversify into eco-friendly dendro power generation that would help eradicate the invasive ‘Kalapu Andara’ from the Bundala National Park.


 The proposed launch of a 10 megawatt dendro power plant in the Hambantota district will be at a cost of US$ 16 million. 


United Dendro Private Limited, a subsidiary of LOLC Group, will handle the overall project, which will correlate with an ecological restoration initiative in the Bundala National Park at an additional initial investment of Rs. 100 million.


 "We are optimistic of supplying 10 Megawatts to augment the national grid with the completion of this power project within a one year timeframe", says Kithsiri Gunawardena, Chief Operating Officer, LOLC and Chief Legal Officer, LOLC Group.


 "The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) has agreed to purchase dendro energy from the proposed plant at Rs. 20/- per kilowatt, the second highest in the rates structure for renewable energy sources", he said in an interview with The Sunday Island.


 "We have entered into a power purchase agreement with the CEB and the rate at which we have agreed to supply dendro power to the national grid will remain unchanged for the next two decades", he explained. "These are long-term commitments".


 Sri Lanka has depended on the age-old generation of hydro-power for too long and the time is now opportune to explore and tap the potential of renewable sources of energy such as from dendro, solid waste and wind, he stressed.


 Dendro is the generation of electricity using biomass (wood chips). Biomass is biological material from living, or recently living organisms, most often referring to plants or plant-derived materials.


He said the proposed dendro plant will be based on an air-cool mechanism which requires only 200,000 liters of water per day but the advantage is that the water can be recycled and the evaporation level is one-third. Though the installation costs are 15% higher, the benefits far outweigh the cheaper water-cool model which needs about 1.2 million liters of water per day with most of it evaporating.


"Instead of advertising for the supply of wood chips, which would have led to the indiscriminate felling of trees even from our protected forests, we decided to establish a plantation to ensure a steady supply of responsibly sourced wood chips and to maintain a buffer stock as  well.", Gunawardena noted.


"It is estimated  that one megawatt of dendro power needs supplies from about one thousand acres of gliricidia to keep it going by re-growing and harvesting", he said.


The company has made a policy decision to only use wood chips of the invasive ‘Kalapu Andara’ (Prosophis juliflora)  and gliricidia as it was concerned not to create any incentive to harm the existing protected forest reserves of the country, he elaborated.


At a ceremony held at the park office of  the Bundala National Park on February 3, LOLC, in collaboration with the Department of Wildlife Conservation, initiated the ecological restoration initiative in a bid to preserve the Bundala National Park by eradicating two alien invasive plants Prosopis juliflora and Opuntia dillenii (Cactus).  On the same day, a UNESCO funded wet land laboratory was also established at Bundala to monitor the water quality of the many water bodies of the park.


 Bundala, declared a sanctuary in 1969 under the Flora & Fauna Act, was re-designated a National Park in 1993. Situated in the Hambantota district, this National Park which spans across 3,698 hectares, was incorporated into the global list of Ramsar wetlands in 1991 – the first in Sri Lanka. In 2005, Bundala was declared a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.


"We have injected Rs. 100 million for the purchase of machinery such as clipping machines and  brush cutters for this ecological project aimed at systematically clearing these invasive plants from 454 hectares within a five-year period", the COO elaborated.


 Though the wood chips of Prosopis juliflora can be used for the production of electricity, the cactus is of no commercial value and the mechanical rooting out will be done more as a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project, Gunawardena said.


 


Q:  Can you outline how these two invasive plants are impacting negatively on Bundala?


 A: The habitats of wading birds are being encroached by the spread of these alien plants around the tidal plains in Malala and Embilikala. Their spread has been facilitated by wandering livestock herds. The permeation of these viral plants within the Park has resulted in habitat destruction of its indigenous species of plants and has posed a threat to the park’s bio diversity.


 The project we have implemented is in full compliance with country’s Flora & Fauna Protection Ordinance and will be meticulously supervised by  officers of the Department of Wild Life Conservation. A basic environmental assessment regarding the project has already been conducted and based on its recommendations the invasive plant species will be systematically destroyed.


 


Q: What’s the objective of setting up a wetlands laboratory at Bundala?


 A: As with all wetlands, advancements in development have had a negative impact on the water quality of the Park. The need for a wetland laboratory arose and the equipment needed was provided by UNESCO on a request made by the Wildlife Conservation Department. Consequently, officers required to overlook activities at the laboratory established at the Headquarters of the Bundala National Park were provided training courtesy of the Department of Wildlife Conservation.


 Secretary General of UNESCO Sri Lanka, Preethi Perera and Senior Advisor of the Ramsar Convention’s Asia-Oceania Region, Professor Lee Ying opened the lab last week in the presence of Wildlife Conservation Department Director-General H. D. Ratnayake.


Gunawardena said that flamingoes are no longer seen at Bundala because the prey they found in brackish water had been destroyed due to the degree of salinity changes. This is where the Lab for Water Quality Management will play a vital role.


Brackish water, salt pans, mangroves, lagoons, lakes and salterns are some of the key land features visible within the park. A large number of migratory bird species are known to frequent the Bundala National Park during winter in the Northern Hemisphere, which in turn draws a large number of foreign and local tourists to the park annually.


 Bundala stretches nearly 20km’s along the coastal strip between Kirinda and Hambantota and has a temperature of around 27 degrees Celsius. One-third of the national park is covered in water sources while the park itself holds great historical and archaeological significance.


 As with all wetlands, advancements in development has had a negative impact on the water quality of the Bundala National Park. Thus, the need for a wetland laboratory arose and the equipment needed was provided by UNESCO on a request made by the Department of Wildlife Conservation.


 Consequently, officers required to overlook activities at the laboratory established at the Head Quarters of the Bundala National Park were provided training courtesy of the Department of Wildlife Conservation.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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