This may not be the appropriate thread, but I am posting it here, because I want Calvin to see this:
From dailypioneer.com. Posting in full as the URL may not be archived:
Chhattisgarh village is the new eco-hero
Antara Bose | New Delhi
The next green revolution has already happened in the tiny, remote village of Ranidahra in Chhattisgarh. Pushed to the fringes of our consciousness and urban initiative, this hamlet in the Bodla block of Kabirdham district is shining bright. For it has been electrified with bio-fuel, using jatropha seeds.
This eco-project undertaken by the State Government has been sponsored by the British High Commission and an NGO, Winrock International India. "This project was assigned to us by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. We have experimented in some of the remotest villages of Chhattisgarh over three years to assess how bio-fuels can work for long-term sustainable models. The greatest challenge was convincing the people that a plant could generate electricity. They had the conventional idea of a thermal power grid system as the only model capable of supplying 24 hours of uninterrupted power. It was a challenge," says Prodyut Mukherjee, programme officer, energy and environment, Winrock International India (WII).
Ranidahra demonstrates the technical and financial viability of running conventional generators on Jatropha oil instead of diesel. While a litre of diesel costs around Rs 30, a litre of jatropha oil requires 4 kg seeds, priced at Rs 6.25 a kg. That works to Rs 25 as input cost. Imbued with a new idea that could transform their dark lives, the villagers volunteered their services under shramdaan and planted more than 25,000 Jatropha saplings.
Since project officials did not want to interfere with the food security system, the saplings were planted along roadsides and farm boundaries but not on farmlands. Even waste lands were not spared. The village comprises 110 households and has a population of 600. "We collected the seeds and put them into a standard oil expeller. Once the oil was extracted, it was directly poured into the generators. The power plant was commissioned on April 9, 2007 and it has been running successfully since. The Government has been working on many plans but this is the one that has worked out," says Mukherjee.
Concurs S K Shukla, executive director, Chhattisgarh Biofuel Development Authority. "I am glad that a breakthrough has happened in Chhattisgarh. This plant was started in 2006. We had submitted a detailed project report to the State Government which then invited the private sector to help out and accelerate the development process. We are now planning to cover 26 villages in Korba district under the National Thermal Power Corporation. This includes areas adjoining Ranidahra. Right now we ensure three-and-a-half hours of continuous power to households and five hours for streetlights. That will go up once we increase plantation sizes."
With the existing plantations at 10 hectares, the team has come up with three generators of 3.5 KVA with a back-up generation capacity of 7.5 KVA. "We have managed the distribution patterns so that they can benefit the villagers in terms of their productivity. The streetlights work from 7 pm to midnight and the households consume power from 6 pm to 9:30 pm. Once we have enough plantations, 24-hour power supply is an absolute possibility," assures Mukherjee.
Villagers are happy. Punia Bai, who was here as a test case of how bio-fuels can change lives, says, "My children can now study after sunset. You cannot imagine the boon time. It is now safe to move around in the village as there are streetlights."
The State Government has woken up to the advatages of bio-fuels and is leaving no stone unturned to extend help. Shukla says, "We have made a beginning. We welcome franchisees and private sector to operationalise similar projects."
The project has also trained villagers in basic safety rules while working around jatropha plantations. "These plants are not edible, so they should not be mixed with other vegetation," he adds.
The good part is that it works. You can also use jatropha oil in your vehicle. The project has in no small part been aided by the fact that these villages are nearer the forest, so earmarking land for jatropha plantations was easy. But the State Government is also working on jatropha oil substitues like Pongamia, another bio-diesel and sweet Sorghum, which yields ethanol.
Being a sub-tropical country, India can grow oil-bearing seeds for bio-fuels. Of 1,25,000 un-electrified villages in India, 25,000 are considered remote. The Central Government promises 100 per cent electrification of rural households by 2012
Now, anticipating some points that Calvin would make to diss the viability of such projects, here are my answers:
1. Price is subsidized. Cannot be commercialized:
There is no market pricing for any fuel in India. At current international prices for petroleum, perhaps petrol and diesel are also subsidized by the GOI or its public sector oil companies.
2. Can never be enough to replace petroleum:
I do not envision taxis in Mumbai running on jatropha oil. But in rural areas, for limited uses such as streetlights in the evening, household electricity for a few hours a day, agricultural pumpsets, local autorickshaws etc., it can certainly be viable. A lot of these uses will be new energy for areas where there is no electricity, irrigation pumpsets, or local vehicles right now. The changes in people's lives can be phenomenal, just like the nano.
3. Wasteland regeneration, and increased rural employment in growing, collecting and processing jatropha seeds are other benefits that will make a huge difference in backward areas.