New Delhi, Jul 14: After the common man, the Armed Forces have been hit by spiralling fuel costs, forcing it to experiment with alternative energy sources.
Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju has asked the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to find out the suitability of blending bio diesel with conventional fuel and study its performance without compromising the needs of the Armed forces in extreme climatic conditions.
The DRDO, on its part, is running a programme with the Army on developing a composite bio diesel model. Various laboratories, including CSIR, universities and industrial houses are collaborating in the programme. The DRDO's Defence Agricultural Research Laboratory (DARL), Pithoragarh is the nodal agency for the DRDO-Army Bio-Diesel Programme.
DARL has planted over 3.64 lakh saplings of the high-yielding Jatropha on 300 hectares of land at Military Farms in Secunderabad, Mhow and Ahmednagar. Tests revealed that 20 per cent blended Winter Grade Diesel does not freeze up to minus 17 degrees Celsius and 5 per cent blended and 10 per cent blended diesel worked efficiently at minus 17 degrees Celsius to run the vehicles. The Vehicle Research and Development Establishment (VRDE), Ahmednagar has carried out performance trials of bio-diesel on vehicles for a cumulative 4000 km. But according to Bio-fuel Research and Development Centre (BRDC), Jatropha cultivation is possible only in the southern parts of the country as the plant's flowering and fruiting does not take place below 18 degrees Celsius and the crop is dormant below this temperature, gaining normalcy back in ambient warmer temperature.
Addressing a DRDO-triservice meet on 'Promotion of Alternative Energy Sources in the Armed Forces' here recently, Mr Raju emphasised that following spiralling cost of fossil fuels and the huge consumption of oil fuels by the Armed Forces, it was high time that the three services adopted bio-diesel.
Representatives of the Armed Forces told the meet that use of non-conventional energy sources including solar powered street lights and water heaters, wind mills, micro-hydel projects of one KW capacity and use of CFL lights was being promoted in cantonments.