In today’s world, at home or at the workplace, energy has become the basic source to power every one of our requirements — be it a light bulb, refrigerator, mixer, mobile or laptop. And with the climate change crises looming over our heads and being felt across the world, even in our cities, deriving a large portion of this energy from renewable sources would be the best bet. Apart from reducing electricity bills, it would be one massive step to communicate to the world our commitment to going green.
In the last issue, we spoke about the easiest way to set up a solar energy system at home and bask in the blessings offered by the sun. This time let’s look at other non-conventional energy sources. Some of them may not be suitable for a city home, but others could very well fit the bill. For instance, wind energy. It is now being considered as an option for home use and there are young minds bringing this innovation to our doorstep.
But before going into wind energy, I thought my experience in rural Bihar may be an interesting digression into doing things the green way. Some years ago, large tracts of West Champaran district were off the grid and the villagers had no electricity. During the day they did without power and at night they lit kerosene lanterns or used diesel gensets for larger applications. Children found it difficult to study after dusk, there was no TV for entertainment and people walked miles to get their mobiles charged.
Then one day a few young men who came from the region and were now professionals in their own right, decided to light up the area with renewable energy. Through their research they zeroed in on rice husk that was widely available. They set up several small husk-powered power plants across the region, trained locals in how to manage them and generated electricity that lit up the villages at night. The power supply charged phones, worked television sets, and even allowed shops to be open till late hours. When I visited the area, I saw first-hand how this initiative had changed the lives of the people.
As time went by, and their needs increased, the villagers wanted power 24×7. So, the youngsters developed a hybrid system that provided power through a solar system during the day and through husk at night. They even provided a livelihood for unemployed women who then turned the residue from the husk into agarbattis. The company, Husk Power Systems, has expanded its reach today to other states and countries. Despite challenges, it has stuck to its renewable energy agenda.
This story illustrates the power of ideas and the initiative that goes into problem-solving through clean energy. Similarly, there are youngsters who have taken to setting up household wind energy units as a challenge because they see its immense potential in coastal areas, hilly regions and wherever wind speed is good. Two brothers, Arun and Anup George from Kerala, have developed their own product which made it to the UN Innovation Summit in 2019. They manufacture from scratch the ‘Made in India’ off-grid 1kW Avatar small wind turbine. This provides a daily output of 5kWh at mean (average) wind speeds of 5.5 m/s and can be installed on any rooftop, big or small, as it requires about 25 per cent of the space an equivalent solar system would require.
Arun, the CEO of Avant Garde Innovations, to whom I spoke for this column, says that the Avatar-1, which generates 5kWh/ day at mean windspeed of 5.5 m/s, can power 14 LED lamps of 10W each; two laptops of 50W each; two LED TVs (100W); one 165-litre refrigerator; four fans 75W each and a water purifier (100W). There are other models that generate higher levels of power and go up to 25 kWh/day. Avatar has been installed in various locations across the country, in flats, farms, and also at Leh for the Indian army.
Arun emphasised the advantages of wind versus solar, in that the former generates power during the day and night, has lower space utilisation, higher efficiency, longer life of battery, low maintenance and is unaffected by rainfall, snowfall or clouds. He feels the Avatar competes easily with rooftop solar installations as it is affordable at ₹60,000 onwards.
However, there are also other brands in the market, many of which are assembled and sold by traders. It is best to thoroughly research the market before opting for a product.
Alternate sources of energy are in sharp focus following the code red warning for humanity issued recently by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It literally asks nations and citizens to act now to avert climatic disaster and save the Earth. Wind power could be a welcome addition to the effort.
The writer is a senior journalist who writes on environmental issues.