28 April 2012
SYNERGY : Varsity teams up with Thai university to explore new green fuel.
Petai belalang @ petai Jawa.
BANGKOK: IN what is believed to be the first of its kind ever, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) and a Thai university will "steam up" energy from a tree species.
UiTM rector (Pahang campus) Associate Prof Datuk Dr Hilmi Ab Rahman said UiTM would collaborate with Kasetsart University of Thailand to explore the new renewable energy source from "energy plantations".
He said wood from the Luceana tree could be burnt to produce steam, which could be turned into new energy to serve as an alternative to prominent energy sources such as oil, gas, coal and hydro.
"It is a green technology and renewable energy as the Luceana tree can be harvested in just 18 months compared with thousands of years for fossil fuel to develop."
He said, so far, no other country had produced energy based on Luceana wood.
The Luceana species is known as petai belalang in Malaysia, and ipil-ipil, in Sabah.
Dr Hilmi said the new renewable energy could offer a cheaper solution to the depleting fossil fuel and higher crude oil price, which hit about US$120 (RM365) per barrel.
"Investors are keen to look at the source of energy as they move towards green technology."
He said Kasetsart University had the expertise and technology in energy plantation as they had been carrying out research for 40 years.
UiTM has also engaged in the research of energy plantation, and together with Kasetsart University, the varsity aims to enhance its research, especially in the genetic engineering of Luceana tree, in ensuring the sustainable supply of the tree.
Dr Hilmi said UiTM had planted the Luceana species on a 5,000ha plantation in Merchang, Dungun, as its pilot project.
He said the new renewable energy had vast potential, not only for Malaysia and Thailand but also for the Asean region and worldwide.
"We need to educate the industry players that tree plantation is not merely for producing wood for furniture."
In Thailand, the tree is used to prevent soil erosion and its leaves are used as animal feed.
"Energy plantation may seem like a crazy idea, but it is doable," said Dr Wan Mohd Nazri Wan Abdul Rahman, a scientist of UiTM Pahang.
He added that the new renewable energy had been proven to produce one megawatt of electricity and generate a diesel engine in Sabah.
"We used two combustions, with 80 per cent consisting of the renewable energy and 20 per cent of diesel in generating the engine."
Dr Nazri said more research was needed if 100 per cent of the new renewable energy were to be used for the diesel engine.
He said the energy plantation pilot project was supplying energy for a timber factory in Kertih. Bernama
Source: The New Straits Times