School: BITS-Pilani (Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, India)
Team Members: Abhishek Syal, Mahesh Jakhotia, Prakash Sarwa, Vijay Jakhotia
Concept: Vidyut Shakti plans to provide electricity to rural Indian villages by growing and processing jatropha, a common weed whose seed oil can be converted into biodiesel.
India faces a dramatic electricity shortage, especially in rural areas. Many households rely on kerosene for light, and even homes connected to a power grid may only have electricity for a few hours a day.
Vidyut Shakti plans to establish jatropha farms and build generators on underutilized wastelands. In addition to supplying energy to the villages, the farms will create job opportunities for unskilled laborers.
Using jatropha to generate power is not a new concept in India; one other company is currently doing so. In general, jatropha farms yield a relatively small crop that generates correspondingly small quantities of biodiesel. However, Vidyut Shakti plans to use patent-pending biotechnology to increase the yield of crop and biodiesel, giving it a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
The company anticipates ongoing market growth, as India's expanding economy and growing population demand even more energy. The Indian government is eager to promote jatropha cultivation and offers subsidies for the purchase of wastelands.
Timeline: Between now and 2010, Vidyut Shakti plans to establish farms and generators in 10 villages in the Churu-Pilani region of Rajasthan. The plants will begin to yield biodiesel three years after they are planted. Between 2010 and 2012, the company plans to start producing elsewhere in Rajasthan and in other states. - Stephenie Fletcher
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