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Village power = decentralised power. Isn’t that a no-brainer? | India Renewable Energy Consulting – Solar, Biomass, Wind, Cleantech
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I recently read a post from the excellent Panchabuta blog about the government’s sudden realisation that in order for the thousands of Indian villages to get access electricity, extending the grid down there is not the answer, but use of renewables for distributed power generation is.

Governments never cease to amaze the masses who elected them. I mean, isn’t this obvious? All right, it might not be obvious to the average Joe on the road, but I am sure the Ministry of Power had long back done their calculations of extending the grid to these thousands of villages and compared the results to the cost of implementing renewable sources of power in these locations. At EAI, we did this calculation a month ago for one of our clients, and we found that extending the grid was way too costly for those villages that had fewer than 200 households and which were over 100 Kms away from the nearest grid-point. For these villages (and I presume there must be thousands in this list), investing in renewables is a far better idea than taking the grid out there – most of these villages doubtless will have enough sunlight and enough biomass, so feedstock should hardly be a big problem.

Decentralized power generation also brings in the added benefit of fewer grid breakdowns. When the source of generation is just a few hundred meters away, it is obvious that there will be fewer disruptions in distribution than when the source is a few hundred kilometers away.

Which renewable energy sources for these villages, then? Given that many of these villages will require not more than 50-100 kW per village, the obvious choices are solar PV and biomass gasification, as these two can work at low scales as well as should have enough natural resource availability at most villages. Solar PV is costly (Rs 10/kWh) and biomass gasification is much closer to grid parity (Rs 3.5-4/kWh). The solution is perhaps then a hybrid of PV and biomass gasification…

I really look forward to the government moving faster on using renewables for village power…