Generating electricity from slow-moving water

Last Updated 29 September 2013, 20:40 IST

In an era where there is much pressure on institutionalised education, not many would believe in the possibility of scientific innovation outside traditional schooling.

A Bangalore resident, K Balakrishna, a school dropout who worked as a lorry driver for several years, has come up with a novel approach to power generation from slow moving water. The 52-year-old is also a former councillor of the erstwhile K R Puram City Municipal Council.

A conical turbo fitted with a turbine that he built over three years of work, can generate power from slow moving water. This does not mandate clean water.

Choked lake water and drain water could be used for the purpose. What is more, while generating electricity, the turbine will separate solid particles in the drain water. The same water can be repeatedly used for generation. With the help of this device, he was able to provide power for over 300 street lights in and around KR Puram, in the last one year.

He made use of drain water for it. The first turbo could generate up to 30 kv of power. Later, he built two more that have a capacity to generate up to 100 kv. Water has to be passed through a cylinder at a speed of 50 litres per second to generate this kind of electricity. At present, he has with him five such turbines. He has spent nearly Rs one crore donated by his friends and well-wishers, in developing these machines.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Balakrishna said he first got the idea during the Tsunami that struck a decade ago. “I went to a few places in Tamil Nadu to distribute rice and clothes to Tsunami victims. I suddenly realised how powerful water was. I thought, if water was so powerful, then something good must be churned out of it.”

He then began looking into the prospects of generating energy from slow-moving water unlike what is required for traditional method of power generation. Three years of intensive work later, he had his turbine ready. To test its effectiveness, he tried it out in and around K R Puram and was able to provide enough electricity for street lights. “It has got nothing to do with how many theories you read. If you immerse yourself in it with passion and hard work, anybody can do it.”

Humble background

Balakrishna comes from a humble background. His father was a daily wage labourer who had migrated from Salem to Bangalore in search of work. He was employed for various chores involving construction work. With nine children to feed, education was not the priority and, Balakrishna had to stop his studies after Class VII. After driving lorries for a few years, he saved up enough to buy a few lorries himself. He was the 'go-to' person for the people in the locality. As he had gained their good will, he became the councillor with their support.

Later, he was also managing a business of processing mud into sand. “It involves running the mud in flowing water to separate sand. With a few years of experience in this, I gathered enough knowledge about mechanical energy to apply it to this project.”
‘Saudi govt interested’

Even though Balakrishna is keen on making use of the device in Karnataka and in India, he has been unable to convince the officials of its value. However, he has received a proposal from Saudi Arabian government that is keen on making use of this technology in their country, according to Balakrishna. They have asked him for 1000 mw generation. Developing this would cost about Rs 25,000 crore, he said.

“I find it ironical that a research institute gets funds, whether a project will fail or succeed. In my case, officials are not convinced with a machine that has proved to be effective. People are biased the moment they learn that a person without educational qualification has come up with it,” he said.

(Published 29 September 2013, 18:52 IST)

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