Powering Engines & Generators

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AYWA International


One major energy need in many underserved markets is inexpensive fuel to power engines, used either for agricultural work or for generating small-scale power.

Biofuel engines are primarily powered by biodiesel, which is produced from oilseeds which are crushed into oil and then processed in a reactor.  Some products use 100% biodiesel, while others use a mix of biodiesel and fossil fuel. The enterprises dealing in this sector try to help beneficiaries access locally grown fuel sources by developing/distributing biofuel engines, or growing oilseeds on managed plantations to be turned into fuel.

Lessons Learned

The most common fuel used for powering engines is Jatropha curcas, though many oilseeds work, and companies like Africa Biofuel are promoting a new feedstock for East Africa, Croton megalocarpus.

Renewable engine power can be a way to use resources which were previously wasted or sold at low prices, such as existing wild oilseeds, to greatly increase agricultural productivity.  CTx GreEn is promoting the use of local processing machines and biofuel engines to run village-level power tillers and water pump systems. If farmers grow biofuel seeds in larger quantities, and have sufficient means (or help) to sell to large buyers, they can turn wastelands into a profitable income source by supplying large scale diesel users like railways and coal companies.  FREED is trying to promote this use of biofuel in West Bengal, India.

Unmodified diesel engines can run on up to 20% biodiesel power.  Retrofitted engines can use 100% biodiesel. Engines that can run on many different oilseeds are more challenging to produce, but insulate users from feedstock price fluctuations, which can be a major factor with the introduction of European requirements for biofuel use. However, because engines can generally run on either biodiesel or fossil fuel, farmers may choose whether to use or sell the biofuel they grow depending on these price fluctuations.

What These Products Replace

The enterprises in this section target users of traditional fossil fuels, such as diesel and gasoline, to power transportation and industrial machines.  Most developing countries are importers of fossil fuels, which leaves them open to risk of price increases.  By shifting to locally grown biofuels, they can greatly reduce both risks and costs, and possibly turn them into energy exporters, though most are far from reaching this stage. Oil-based fuels also contribute to greenhouse gas pollution, accounting for around 37% of total energy emissions. Almost 3/4 of this comes from the transportation sector. Since growing the plants required to produce biofuels in itself reduces carbon in the atmosphere (known as a closed carbon cycle), some studies show biofuels to reduce net CO² emissions by 78 percent compared with petroleum diesel (though some other studies show  concern that NO² emissions may offset many of these reductions in overall greenhouse gas contribution).

There are also a few risks. Widespread use of biofuels can either displace food production, or, if a food crop is also sold as a biofuel, raise the price of that food crop to make it unaffordable to existing customers.  However, most of the enterprises in this section are focused on non-edible biofuels, and on previously un-productive land.

Enterprise List