Husk Power Systems is the name behind lightening up of over 2 lakh households in India. Started by Gyanesh Pandey, Ratnesh Yadav, Manoj Sinha and Charles “Chip” Ransler, it provides power to thousands of rural Indians households using the Rice Husks at a very economical rate.
Husk Power Systems was started in August 2007 at a village Tamkuha in the W. Champaran district of Bihar. Since then it has spread to over 100 Plants in the state providing daily lightening to over 1.5 Lakh people in villages. It has also started its operation in villages of Tamil Nadu and West Bengal and now plans to expand its operation in African continent. Recently, it has joined the ranks of GE and the likes for Powering Africa Program (a $7 billion initiative) launched by US President Barack Obama. It will install 200 decentralized biomass-based mini power plants in Tanzania, providing affordable lighting for 60,000 households.
The Plant has optimized gasifiers that uses rice husks alone, producing a Methane like gas which fuels the generator generating about 32KW of Power from 50 kg of Husk per hour. The cost of a single Husk Power Unit is around Rs 15-16 Lakh.
The rice husks used to fuel the process are purchased from local rice mills for under one rupee per kilogram. The cost of the service is about 80 rupees (less than US$2) per month, about half the cost of the kerosene that most villagers use to power lamps that provide far less light than the CFL bulbs distributed by the company.
Local residents are employed to feed rice husks into the converter, to collect payments in advance and to monitor the electricity usage by customers, who are typically allocated enough electricity to each home for several hours each evening to power two 15-watt compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and to recharge their cell phones.
To keep costs to a minimum, HPS has taken various measures. For instance, the system design itself requires the most basic of gasifiers and generators, thereby reducing manufacturing and maintenance costs. Instead of laying underground cables or using cement poles for supporting overhead distribution cables, HPS uses inexpensive bamboo poles. To avoid electricity theft, the firm has designed its own low-cost, pre-paid energy meters. Labor costs are kept low by employing locals from the villages. When HPS noticed that their customers were using poor-quality bulbs that led to loss of power, they partnered with a manufacturer of high quality bulbs and sourced the bulbs for their customers at discounted rates.
Husk Power plans to have a total of over 2,000 units up and running by the end of 2014. The Company is incorporated at Patna Bihar.
A waste product of the HPS power plant operations is rice husk char, which can be used to make incense sticks. Local village women are trained and employed for this purpose by a non-governmental organization (NGO) set up by HPS. HPS then sells the incense sticks to companies who add various fragrances and market the incense under their own brands.