Hazelnut residues could power a green energy revolution in Azerbaijan- report


Baku, Azerbaijan and Rome, Italy The waste generated in bringing hazelnuts to market could help Azerbaijan transition away from fossil fuels, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The FAO working paper Hazelnut sector in Azerbaijan – Options for green energy interventions along the value chain says the country is the fourth largest hazelnut producer in the world, generating a significant volume of husks and pruning residues which could be converted into bioenergy. 

The results align with national strategies. Azerbaijan is a world leader in energy self-sufficiency, producing four times more energy than it consumes. However, it relies heavily on natural gas and oil, while renewable sources like wind, solar, and bioenergy remain underutilized. In line with global efforts to mitigate climate change, Azerbaijan aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent by 2030 by focusing on strengthening its renewable energy sector. 

The FAO report Hazelnut sector in Azerbaijan – Options for green energy interventions along the value chain estimates that the country will generate more than 50 000 tonnes of pruning residues and 83 000 tonnes of husks by 2026. It notes that this substantial quantity of waste could be used to generate heat and electricity and cover local household and industry energy needs. 

The study examined several bioenergy technologies including cogeneration of heat and power (CHP), which proved to be a competitive option over diesel generators for hazelnut factories and could bring GHG emission savings of up to 43 kgCO2eq/tonne of the hazelnut product. It also looked into charcoal briquettes and pellets, as potential alternative sources of sustainable biofuel for households not connected to the natural gas grid. 

In addition to bioenergy production, the report highlights the potential of renewable energy interventions to prevent aflatoxin contamination, a serious issue that has negatively impacted the quality and value of hazelnuts produced and exported by Azerbaijan over the last few years. To reduce aflatoxin contamination, the FAO report recommends the use of solar dryers for mechanical drying of hazelnuts and small solar cold storages for temperature and moisture-controlled storage. These technologies can help to improve the quality of hazelnuts and ensure that they meet international standards. 

Hazelnut sector in Azerbaijan – Options for green energy interventions along the value chain provides a valuable roadmap and practical insights that support the modernization of Azerbaijan's hazelnut industry as the country transitions towards a sustainable future. By harnessing the potential of hazelnut residues and renewable energy, it suggests that Azerbaijan could become a leader in the production of sustainable hazelnuts while also reducing its environmental footprint, improving the quality and safety of its products, creating new employment opportunities, and boosting local economies.