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Biogas power plant keeps Madurai district police station bright

According to reports, the erratic power supply has not spared the men in khaki across the state, as police stations also bear the brunt of the power cuts. But a police station in rural Chekkanurani in Madurai district is a clear exception.

Not just the police station, located about 15 km away from the city, but the adjacent bus terminus and the four-road intersection there also shines bright, thanks to a biogas plant that runs on biodegradable waste installed in the village.

“Electricity is usually produced through a diesel power generator. Instead of diesel, we use methane gas produced in the biogas plant. The capacity of the plant is 1.3 cubic metres, which can supply gas, sufficient to run a power generator with five KW capacity. We have installed a power generator with 1.5 KW at present,” says T Anitha Sironmani, professor, school of biotechnology, Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU), who was behind the initiative. The plant was set up coinciding with Diwali last month and has been functioning smoothly till now. The unit was set up with the support of Anshul Mishra, Madurai district collector under the model village scheme in A Kokkulam village Panchayat office under which Chekkanurani falls.

The plant, which was set up at estimated cost of at Rs 65,000 has been generating electricity sufficient for lighting at Chekkanurani police station, bus terminal, panchayat office, nearby temple, the four-way junction and a street. The electricity produced in the plant is supplied to 20 electrical bulbs at present. Another 10 bulbs can be installed with the available electricity.

“Our police station is busy from 6pm to 10pm. When there is a power cut, we cannot carryout any work here. Now, we have got electricity for six lights from the biogas unit and able to work even during the power cuts,” said S Krishnan, sub-inspector with Chekkanurani station. Similarly, eight electrical bulbs installed at the bus terminal help the passengers during the night times, he said.

“Though the technique is not new, it is not widely utilised. Bigger plants can supply the electrical need of an entire village without much expense. Bio-waste is the only need once the plant is installed. If the system is widely used, waste from the villages can be reduced drastically,” said Sironmani.

“Smaller units of electricity production can be set up in each household, which can produce electricity need for at least eight hours a day. The whole setup would not cost more than a one-time investment of Rs 12,000. A 300 litre capacity plastic tank, 0.5 KW power generator, is all what needed to install the plant. The bio-waste from the house is enough to produce electricity. The generator can be even directly connected to the tank where human excreta, which is a good source of methane gas,” she added.

If things fall in place, Madurai will have more biogas plants in the city as well as rural areas. ProfAnitha Sironmani met state cooperation minister Sellur K Raju, collector Anshul Mishra and city corporation commissioner R Nanthagopal on Tuesday, to explain about the merits of the biogas plants.
She said that the minister as well as the officials appreciated the work and were inclined to replicate Chekkanurani model elsewhere.

“The minister was keen on setting up an electricity production from such biogas plants in the city. When I met him, he assured that a plant would be set up at Kalavasal Junction. The electricity produced would be utilised for street lights and traffic signals in the area,” she said.

Similarly, the collector was also willing to install such biogas plants in several rural areas, she said. V V Rajan Chellappa, Madurai mayor and the corporation commissioner were also positive about producing electricity from biogas plants. The commissioner assured her to install a biogas plant in the city area after consulting the right place with the city engineer, Sironmani said.

“Right now, I am working on setting up a biogas plant in Periyar bus terminal, which can produce electricity need for the entire bus terminal. Several philanthropists, who are interested in the project have come forward to fund the project. I will provide the technical assistance to them,” she said.

Several hoteliers have expressed their interest to send the bio-waste including food waste from their hotels. The shop owners at the bus terminal have expressed their willingness to contribute their part. A Similar project can be carried out in Mattuthanvani integrated bus terminal if interested persons come forward, she said.

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