Renewable energy model combines solar, bio-gas and hydrogen, plans to light up village near Shantiniketan


To provide 24×7 uninterrupted power from renewable energy sources, experts from the UK and IITs are working together to create a new model which combines the best of solar power, biomass energy and hydrogen. The first-of-its-kind UK-India experimental Bio-CPV project on development and integration of biomass and concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) system will soon light up a remote tribal hamlet in Shantiniketan, 180 km away from Kolkata.

“The problem with dependence on solar power is that sunlight is not available 24×7 and 365 days a year. Therefore we are integrating it with biomass so that the power supply remains continuously available,” project leader Prof Shibani Chaudhuri told PTI. She said that this was the first time that the three sources of green energy would be integrated together in India. Chaudhuri, who teaches environment at Visva-Bharati University in Shantiniketan, said the idea was to use solar power during the day and match it with biomass generation from local sources of organic material during the night.

Pearsonpally, a tribal village of Shantiniketan, has been selected as the site for installation of the integrated energy system. The installation work is expected to begin in October, this year and the entire model would be ready by 2016. The scientists have been conducting research work at labs for the last two years. Once the project is ready, around 30 houses in the village would be lighted up using the new technology.

According to PTI, Hydrogen would also be used for emergency use. The UK-India research project is jointly funded by Research Councils UK (RCUK) and India’s Department of Science and Technology. From the UK, experts from the University of Leeds, University of Exeter, and University of Nottingham are sharing their inputs with scientists from Visva-Bharati, IIT Madras and IIT Bombay.

“It is a pilot project to demonstrate the efficacy of such a low-cost technology for interrupted supply of power,” the experts said. For supply of biomass, weeds, water hyacinth would be collected locally by villagers and mixed with cow dung so that anaerobic process can start to produce methane, which is a biogas.

“Hydrogen is also produced similarly but in a very small quantity. Usage of hydrogen would be a small component as there are issues with storing hydrogen which requires large space,” Chaudhuri said. The scientists are also training the local villagers on collecting biomass, running the power generation system and maintaining the solar power panels. “Once our project is over, the villagers would be self-sufficient to use it. We are doing their capacity building also,” she said.

Indoor air pollution, which results from burning of biomass like wood and coal, is among the major causes of mortality and morbidity in rural India. The 2010 Global Burden of Disease had established that in south Asia as many as 1.04 million pre-mature deaths are related to exposure to biomass burning in poorly ventilated homes.

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