In 2007, Gyanesh Pandey set up Husk Power Systems (HPS) in his native state of Bihar after he quit a well-paying job in in the US. He roped in three friends — Ratnesh Yadav, Charles Ransler and Manoj Sinha — who shared his vision to bring reliable and affordable power to India’s hinterland, especially Bihar.
It took five years of research to identify the technology, one that would make use of non-conventional fuel — rice husk — and suit the economics of rural electrification. That done, in 2008, a remote village in West Champaran district of Bihar called Tamkuha was lit up for the first time, 60 years after Independence.
HPS had the ingredients for success in place. Rice husk was available at Rs 60 per quintal (100 kg); it took an average of three quintals of rice husk a day to generate 32 kilowatts of power, enough for 500 households. The running cost of a plant came to about Rs 20,000 a month. Power was supplied at Rs 80 a month; it could power two CFL bulbs (15 watt each) and a mobile charging point. HPS supplied 7-8 hours of power to these villages after sundown.
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