If you are one of the 385 million people in rural India who live without electricity, you are consigned to darkness when the sun goes down. And in the northern Bihar province, that means crime, fear, lethargy and hopelessness, because the government has made up its mind that vast swathes of the population there are “economically impossible to reach.”
But Gyanesh Pandey, born and raised in Bihar, sees nothing but opportunity and promise in these remote rural areas—much as he envisioned a power source in one of its most abundant and overlooked resources: discarded rice husks that lay in piles outside rice mills. Pandey developed Husk Power Systems using innovative technology that burns those discarded husks in a reactor, filters the gases three times, and injects the gas into an off-the-shelf turbine that drives a generator and produces electricity that can provide power to an entire village.
Each Husk Power Systems plant serves two to four villages, keeping costs low by running insulated wire along bamboo poles to subscribing businesses and households. It’s a electrifying solution that sends positive ripples throughout the entire community.
Electricity extends villagers’ activities beyond daylight hours, promoting economic development and microenterprise; reduces indoor air pollution, improving health; increases the time children can study, improving education; reduces the amount of time women spend collecting firewood, increasing gender equality; and reduces emissions, protecting global and local environments.HPS also creates hundreds of jobs in local villages to build, manage and run the power systems, and gives rice farmers a new source of income.
Since its inception in 2007, Husk Power Systems and its 250 employees, with the help of Acumen Fund and other investing angels, have opened 50 plants that provide 200 villages with off-grid electricity. That means more than 100,000 people can now read, work, write, study, run fans, watch TV, charge their cellphones, and stay open late – at about ½ the cost of using batteries or kerosene. And HPS is just getting started.
Within the next five years, Husk Power Systems plans to build 2,000 plants across the rice belt and deliver sustainable, renewable and clean electricity to five million people, while providing 3,000 good jobs to the rural people of Bihar province. In fact, discarded rice husks have already become such a valuable commodity, farmers are now getting their rice milled for free, so the millers can sell the husks. Now that’s a stimulus package!
Although I can’t invest in Husk Power Systems directly or donate funds yet, I totally support Acumen Funds in its quest to fund entrepreneurs intent upon lighting up India. My $100 gift today goes to purchase five clean, bright solar d.lights (see post on January 4) from Acumen for poor families still awaiting electricity, in the hopes that Husk Power Systems will soon scale up and shine on the darkest corners of the world. To join me, click here.