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Creating Biogas from Water Hyacinth

Posted by on May 10th, 2014

Our river (like many others in Bangladesh) is choked with water hyacinth this time of year. This water weed damages the river eco system and makes boat navigation extremely difficult, but it is also an amazing source of energy.
(Photo by Paola Fornari.)


Like many Bangladeshi rivers, ours is regularly clogged with water hyacinth this time of year. Water hyacinth is a water weed which restricts water flow, blocks sunlight from reaching native aquatic plants, and starves the water of oxygen, often killing fish. When water hyacinth takes over a water way, underwater visibility and boat navigation are reduced; and biodiversity is significantly compromised.

Just as owners of beach resorts must clean the seaweed off of their beaches every morning, we too will need to clean the water hyacinth off of our river. Fortunately, instead of just throwing this weed away or composting it, we can turn it into biogas by putting it in our biogas reactor. To our knowledge, this will be the first commercially operating biogas reactor running off of water hyacinth in the world. Though biogas reactor technology is common in Bangladesh, because our fuel source is new, we decided to create a prototype reactor first to see if the system works as well in practice as it does on paper. And the answer? A resounding, “Yes!”

GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) is partnering with us to introduce this technology to Bangladesh. The gas generated from Panigram’s biogas reactor will be used to power our gas stoves and ovens, but as biogas is predominantly methane, it can also be burned in a generator and turned into electricity. As an added benefit, the sludge byproduct of the gasification process makes a great fertilizer that we can use on our organic farms.


Our cook, Dipu, cooking our first biogas-heated meal!



Winter Interns Work on Alternative Energy Project

Posted by on January 23rd, 2011

A couple of months ago a student from Cornell emailed me. She said that she had applied for the summer internship last year at Panigram, but unfortunately was not selected. She said that she really wanted to work for my company and was wondering if she could come do a winter internship with me. I thought that three weeks was too short for an internship, but I was impressed with her initiative, and I always enjoy working with students, so I agreed. Her friend Cat (another Cornell engineering student) decided to join her. Read the rest of this entry »


Generating Power and Excitement at Panigram

Posted by on February 13th, 2010

I’ve spent the better part of the last few weeks meeting with parties involved in renewable energy system implementation here in Bangladesh. As mentioned before, the front-runners in terms of power sources are solar and biogas power. A good deal of interest is brewing in the power systems of Panigram resort among various energy providers in Dhaka, and work is underway in getting the feasibility of several means assessed.

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Energy Alternatives at Panigram Resort

Posted by on February 6th, 2010

Having been in Dhaka for two weeks now, I’ve had the chance to settle into the job of Energy Engineering Intern for Panigram Resort. Initially, I spent my time continuing work on data that Kristin and the previous intern, Molly, had put together, and used that data to come up with a preliminary estimate of how much power and total energy the resort would consume on a daily basis. Armed with this information, my next task was to set out looking for providers of various means of energy generation here in Dhaka.

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Cornell Engineering Intern Powers Up Panigram

Posted by on January 28th, 2010

Ranjeev Mahtani Looks for Alternative Energy Solutions to Panigram’s Power Requirements

I’m absolutely thrilled about coming out here to Bangladesh as an intern for Panigram Resort. My mission here is to develop and propose a comprehensive and sustainable solution for all of the resort’s power needs. To do this I’ll be assessing the expected electrical power demands of the resort and researching local as well as foreign suppliers of renewable energy technologies. In addition to this, my job will require me to physically survey the resort site in Jessore to determine what types of renewable power systems are most appropriate for that environment.

Cornell Intern Ranjeev Mahtani

Cornell Intern Ranjeev Mahtani

The change from the college environment in Ithaca to a developing nation like Bangladesh is something I’ve been told will be hard to get used to. Personally, I look forward to the change as it takes me closer to my roots. I’m a Sri Lankan citizen, with an Indian heritage, but who’s never experienced either country for longer than a month’s vacation. Those vacations were always wonderful, and I’ve long looked forward to an opportunity to reside within the culture of a developing nation for an extended period. So here I am in Bangladesh with seven months ahead of me to experience and enjoy a culture that is closer to my own than what I experience on a daily basis, and to work on a great project that I am whole-heartedly enthusiastic about.

I’m currently a student at Cornell University, studying mechanical engineering with a focus on energy engineering and a minor in applied economics and management. My main academic and career interest is in sustainable energy and how to implement it as the primary means of power provision worldwide. That said, interning at the Panigram as an energy engineering intern should be a great real world learning application for me. The best part is that at the same time I’ll be able to replace a harsh Ithaca winter and a semester’s worth of classes with tropical goodness, subcontinental culture, and maybe even the chance to play some cricket!