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Lighting rural India - with rice husks
Lighting rural India - with rice husks
Charles (Chip) Ransler and Manoj Sinha
Team name: Husk Power Systems

School: University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

Team members: Manoj Sinha, Charles (Chip) Ransler, Gyanesh Pandey

Concept: In many of India's poorest villages, kerosene lamps and diesel generators still fill in for nonexistent electrical infrastructure. But the indigestible husks from rice that feeds peasant families may soon also light their homes and power their irrigation pumps.

Husk Power Systems (HPS) has developed an innovative power generating technology that uses rice husks as fuel. Rice husks are plentiful and cheap in Indian villages, allowing HPS to offer its pay-per-use village customers a reliable, locally generated, carbon-neutral source of electricity.

Farmers and commercial users would see their costs slashed by one third, according to HPS estimates. The company claims that the average village would eliminate 58.8 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year by adopting its technology.

HPS's mini power plants are relatively small operations - running at 95% capacity, a single village setup would gross about $22,500 a year - but cover their cost of operation when running at just 40% capacity. Each plan can be staffed by three villagers: One to feed around 100 pounds of rice husks into the generator each hour, one to maintain the equipment, and one to collect payments from customers.

Timeline: HPS has implemented its husk-fueled "mini power plants" in two pilot-project villages in Bihar - India's poorest state - and hopes to expand the service to at least 15 rice-rich but electricity-poor villages in India next year, 50 in 2010, and 200 by 2011. - Ben Frumin

NEXT: Green Coal

Last updated May 02 2008: 11:51 AM ET