Jul 062012
 

My feature in today’s Lokmat

Maharashtra is reeling under its worst power shortage ever. It is estimated that the State faces a shortage of between 1500 – 2000 MW.  For a state that has is to being the number one inIndiain industrial production, that kind of a shortage is a huge blow. Industry, small business and households are reeling under acute power cuts. Factories are relocating, industries are shutting down, unemployment is rising, and there seems to be no end in sight to the power crisis.  In regions such as Marathwada 12-13 hours of electricity cuts, on a daily basis are no longer the exception, but the norm.

 

Maharashtra has some big power projects coming up. There is the world’s largest consolidated Solar energy plant being set up in Dhule. There are large thermal plants being set up and the one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants is slated to come up in Jaitapur. But, these take time. Also, there are fears of environmental pollution, safety concerns and the like. The fact remains with large power projects, you need vast tracts of land that have to be acquired from various stake holders, get environmental clearances, run the gamut of PIL’s and hopefully when all that is done the power plant will be operational. While all this is happening households, industries and businesses are without power.

 

The solution may lie in looking at micro-grids rather than centralised grids. Micro grids are bonsai versions of the large centralised electricity production and distribution systems, and they work purely at the local level.  They are aimed at achieving local level electrification within certain parameters of environmental & cost efficiency, and if needed they can tie into the larger electricity grid. Private enterprise and NGO’s such as Greenpeace are working at the grassroots level to help bring electricity, off the main grids, purely at the local level. Micro hydro electric power plants, solar power, power generated through bio mass are all being used, in various locations, in various states

 

One of the companies involved in purely local level power generation is the Husk Power Systems, that is bringing electricity to parts ofBihar.  is estimated that over 80% ofBiharhave never received electricity. They have been using kerosene lamps for lighting purposes. Kerosene is expensive. A litre costs around Rs.40. An average family requires around 13-14 litres a month for just basic lighting purposes. Rice Husk, on the other hand, is abundantly available. It is a waste product that costs very little, yields high levels of energy. HPS has bootstrapped a solution to provide electricity generated from rice husk to the community. Each power plant supplies power to a community of 300-400 households. There are around 60 plants in operation inBihar– mostly in North Western parts, and has a customer base of 25,000 households (roughly 1.2 lakh people).

 

In a little village called Pratap Patti, villagers are enjoying 6 hours of uninterrupted power supply for the very first time in history. Rather than install expensive power meters, the company charges per appliance per month. On an average, a family pays around Rs.120 per month for 15watts of power, much cheaper than kerosene. Also, safer, cleaner and brighter.

 

(rise husk power lighting up the village of Pratap Patti – the blue hues are from light supplied by it. the yellow light is the headlights of a car ,and the left hand side of the road has no light)

Also, the company believes in involving the local community in the process. It trains locals, especially women to take care of the plants. The feeling of community ownership is huge. The plant manager of a Husk Power plant said that they don’t even have barbed wire protecting the plant. No one will steal anything because of the utility it gives the village at large.

Cheap, efficient, and effective – maybeMaharashtraneeds to look at its own variants of the micro grid to address the energy requirements of its people.

 

On Rice Husk power generation

  • Rice husk is purchased & dried
  • It is poured into the funnel of a biomass gasification plant.
  • The furnace is maintained at a temperature of 400-500 degrees C
  • The rice husk burns, and this generates the energy required to light up homes.
  • ON an average it costs about Rs.50 to generate 1 watt of power
  • About 2 kgs of rice husk yield 1 kW of power.