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Powering Rural India through Renewable Energy – Types of Energy Home Systems & Government Renewable Programs

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There are many sparsely populated areas where extension of grid connectivity is not rewarding. Renewable energy can be most cost-effective and advantageous for such areas. Renewable energy projects are sustainable and uncomplicated. Existing options like kerosene lanterns and diesel generators are expensive, difficult to disseminate in remote areas and pollute air. Renewable energy can play a major role in electrifying rural India, provided the program is executed through Energy Service Provider Route and a suitable financial model is drawn up. Renewable energy can not only aid household electrification, but also irrigation, crop processing and other rural needs.

Standalone Renewable Systems

Pico PV system (PPS), solar home systems (SHS), small hydro plants (SHP) and wind home systems (WHS) offer a potential solution for providing electricity to isolated places. In these standalone systems, power generation is installed close to the load and there are no transmission and distribution costs. Moreover, to keep prices affordable, components can be minimized and capacities maintained low – mainly serving small DC appliances for lighting and communication.

Type of Energy Home Systems



Pico PV Systems (PPS) • Has power output of 1-10 MW, mainly used for lighting.• PPS are powered by a small solar panel and use a battery, which can be integrated in the lamp itself.• Loads: Light TV, radio, mobile phone charger.
Solar home Systems (SHS) • Cover a power output of up to 250-W peak.• Composed of several independent components: modules, charge controller, battery.• Loads: Light mobile phone charger, fan, ICT, cooling, light fan.
Solar Residential Systems • Provides electricity to large individual installations for hotel, hospital, factory, school, etc.• Include an inverter allowing the use of AC loads.• Larger, cannot be operated with 12 V or 24 V; higher voltage such as 48V has to be chosen.• Loads: Light mobile phone charger, ICT, fans, AC loads such as drilling machine, grain mill, sewing machine and mixer.
 Small Hydro Plants • Composed of a turbine and a generator.• Cover a capacity range of 0.2 kW up to 800,000 kW.• Considered small when under 10 MW, mini under 1.000 kW, micro under 100 kW and pico under 20 kW.• Requires knowledge of the site geomorphology and hydrology in order to design reliable predictions of the availability and time distributions of the flow rates.
Wind Home Systems • Turbines with diameter of 15 m and with a power output below 50 kW.• Most have a permanent magnet generator and do not need a gear box.• Wind speeds over 5m/s are strong enough to have an economically sound operation

Source: India Carbon Outlook

Read more about Pros and Cons of Renewable Energy.

Hybrid Power Systems

A hybrid power system uses renewable energy as a primary source and a genset as back-up. This solution is especially interesting for isolated villages/small towns away from the national electricity grid. A hybrid system can use several renewable energy technologies and balance the specific advantages and shortcomings of each resource. Small hydropower continuously produces cost-competitive electricity for villages close to water resources, but is very site specific and may be dependent on seasonal effects. As solar resources are abundant, PV can be used almost everywhere (especially in Southern countries), but it has rather high requirements for storage since there is no generation during the night. The generation of WHS follows the site-specific wind profile over the year. Diesel, gasoline and LPG generators can be added as complementary sources to ensure continuous supply and maximize the life of components by reducing the stress on the overall system, thus reducing the overall costs.

Government Supported Renewable Programs in Rural India

The Government has been supporting many business models for the development of rural economy through renewable energy sources. Some of the government programm succeeded, while several others did not achieve the desired objectives as they did not generate sufficient revenue. The following describes some of the government-supported renewable program in rural India:

1) Biomass Gasifiers – MNRE implements a program called “Biomass gasifier based distributed/off grid power program for rural areas.” Under this program the biomass gasifier systems are deployed for fulfilling the unmet electricity demand in villages. The program is implemented through state nodal agencies with the involvement of energy service companies, cooperatives or Panchayats, NGOs, manufacturers or entrepreneurs, or central finance assistance (CFA). State nodal agencies are responsible for initiating, promoting, supporting and coordinating all activities concerning new and renewable energy within each state. Some components, which are funded by the CFA, focus on human resource development and training (operation and maintenance; management) and support for gasifier manufacturers and suppliers to establish service centers in areas near the biomass gasifier installations. Sustainable funding models are also developed in villages, although the capital costs for the biomass gasifiers are funded through Government of India grants. The payable electricity charge is collected from each household, and the operation and maintenance costs are met by the Village Energy Committee or the entrepreneur.

2) Micro Hydro Power Systems – Integrated Rural Development of Weaker Sections in India supported the development of a 25-kW micro hydro project in the village of Putsil in Odisha’s Koraput district. This system is designed to supply electricity to surrounding households, the battery-charging station, the grinder/milling machine in the village and the village community center. The project was commissioned in 1999 after two years of intensive interaction with the community. There is a committee overseeing plant operations, and each family in the community pays a fixed fee for using the power generated. Members of the neighboring communities also pay for using the mill; half of this revenue stream goes into the community fund, which is to pay for plant’s maintenance. Along with power generation, the micro hydro project enhances income-generating activities in the region.

3) Captive Power for Industries – According to the Electricity Act 2003, a captive power plant “means a power plant set up by any person to generate electricity primarily for his own use and includes a power plant set up by any cooperative society or association of persons for generating electricity primarily for use of members of such cooperative society or association.” The opportunities that emerged after the enforcement of the Electricity Act 2003, including de-licensing generation, implementing open access, and setting up a common trading platform, have made the captive power plants an attractive option for industries to meet their in-house requirement and sell surplus power from their captive plants to the grid, which helps the country in meeting the power shortage.

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Rishi Srivastava

Rishi is a student of MBA in Power Management from Centre of Advance Management in Power Studies ,NPTI. He has over 3 years of experience in IT-consulting domain. His areas of interest include Renewable Energy, CDM, Demand- side management and rural electrification through off-grid/micro-grid.

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