R'than villages get smart power

R'than villages get smart power

Even in the scorching summer months, several villages in Rajasthan have to go without electricity as limited power is being diverted to meet excess demand in urban areas, making life difficult for villagers.

But there is hope. Two engineering graduates from the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a technology model to electrify rural villages using renewable energy sources locally available.

After spurning lucrative corporate jobs, 22-year-old Yashraj Khaitan of Jaipur and his batchmate Jacob Dickinson of the US have ventured into a project called ‘Gram Power’, which enables villagers to generate and store power from renewable sources at the local level and distribute it at affordable prices through their own grid system.

It generates power from solar, wind and biomass abundantly available in the area and stored in batteries. It is distributed to consumers using an invention called ‘smart micro grid’. This model not only addresses the issue of power shortage but makes electricity affordable as well.

In 2011, US space agency NASA had selected the ‘Gram Power’ technology among top 10 clean technology innovations in the world.

The two engineering graduates’ first smart micro grid was set up at Todaraisingh Mandal village in Tonk district in Rajasthan in May this year, which caters to 200 people in the village where electricity had not yet reached.

Now, at least 10 villages have been electrified using this technology in Rajasthan.

Yashraj said their smart grid site is the only village in the entire area receiving reliable power on demand round the clock. “Consumers pay Rs 75 per month under pay-as-you-go model for uninterrupted nine-hour power supply, which is less than the money they spend on kerosene,” he said.

According to him, this benefit should be compared with villagers shelling out Rs 10 for a one-time recharge of their cellphone from a neighbouring electrified village.

“The beauty of the scheme is that villagers can buy power as per their need under a prepaid system with devices for metering and monitoring in place. The project effectively eliminates power theft and pilferage,” he claimed.

He said he was inspired by an innovator at a remote village in Bharatpur district, who had built a jugard — a contraption used by villagers for transport — using dismantled vehicle parts.

During a university project to identify challenges faced by villagers, he said he was moved by the condition of villagers who live without electricity, leading him to start the project.

He said he is looking for partnerships to increase access to this technology through state and central agencies.

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