British varsity to help West Bengal village access electricity

From H S Rao
London, Nov 17 (PTI) A British university is conducting a research into sustainable energy to help a remote village in West Bengal to access electricity for the first time by installing a sustainable system from biological waste and novel solar photovoltaic technology.
Dr Mark Walker, Research Associate at Sheffield Universitys Energy 2050 research institute, has collaborated with UK and Indian partners to install a sustainable system from biological waste and novel solar photovoltaic technology for the village.

The project, funded by RCUK Energy, RCUK Digital Economy and the Indian Department of Science and Technology, involved a multinational team, including the Universities of Exeter, Nottingham, Leeds and Herriot-Watt in the UK, and IIT Madras and Bombay and Visva Bharati University in India, to develop the integrated technology in Pearson Pally, which they then trained local people to use and maintain.

Dr Walker, who has led on the biogas system, said: “More than 400 million people in India currently have little or no electricity. The villagers in this part of the world are employed for clearing local lakes and woodlands of weeds and other plant material.

“This, along with locally collected food waste, is perfect raw material for anaerobic digestion, a technology that is being increasingly used throughout India.”
The system is designed to provide basic electrical energy needs to a community and has the additional benefit of providing biogas for cooking.

This could improve the quality of life for women who often have to cook with dirty smoking fuel in enclosed houses.

One unique aspect of the project is that it looks to integrate several renewable energy technologies – with no fossil fuel backup – to produce electricity at a small scale.

Most other projects have focused on a single source of renewable energy (mostly solar) and some form of energy storage like batteries and then a fossil fuel generator for backup.
The second major development is the use of biogas (from anaerobic digestion) for rural electrification in the developing world.

Previously, biogas programmes have focused solely on using the gas for cooking.
“Our challenge has been to make these systems more effective, and to integrate them into an electrical energy system. Achieving this involves process modelling so the system can be designed to cope with sudden changes in demand,” said Dr Walker.
The system is designed to produce 14 m3 of biogas per day and can provide 65 kWh of electricity per day.

The power is now being used to satisfy the domestic needs of villagers, but also provide lighting for streets and communal areas, as well as power to a local medical centre and school.
The team aim to continue the project with the help of industrial partners.

These developments could lead to improvements in the provision of low-carbon electricity in developing countries, which in turn could contribute to poverty reduction and increase healthcare, educational and employment prospects for some of the poorest people in the world. (MORE) PTI HSR PMS