According to reports, in what is likely a global first, inhabitants of 11 Lakshadweep islands have decided to stop using diesel and turn to coconuts for meeting their frugal power needs.
An alternative energy expert has shown the residents how to generate sufficient electricity from coconut leaves, stem, husk and shells. With millions of coconut trees on the islands, supply will never be an issue and it will also help cut down on pollution in the archipelago.
About 200-440 km off the south western coast of India, Lakshadweep – a Sanskrit name that means one hundred thousand islands – consists of 36 islands in all, 25 of which are uninhabited. The main source of power for the inhabitants of these fragile ecological coral islands for long has been diesel generators.
“Diesel is costly and electricity produced from these generators costs around 28 per unit against conventional power cost of about 3-4 per unit. The power department of Lakshadweep offers 90% subsidy – about 25 on every unit of power sold – and spends 80 crore each year, which is a drain on the government,” SP Gon Choudhury, advisor to the Lakshadweep’s power department, told ET.
Choudhury, a nationally renowned solar power expert, was invited by the Lakshadweep authorities to suggest ways to set up solar power generation systems on the islands for minimising pollution. “After studying the landscape of the cluster of islands, its habitat and the ecological system, despite being a solar expert, I suggested setting up small bio-mass power generation systems on each island that will use coconut leaves, husk and the shells.”
Assured, cheap fuel supply
Wind power has also been ruled out due to land constraints,” Choudhury said.
He claims power from coconut is a global first. These trees being an intrinsic part of the island and available in such abundance, fuel for the power plants is assured and comes almost free of cost. “Energy content in the fuel is very high and it will bring down cost of generation from 28 per unit to 11 per unit,” he said.
Ravi Chandar, executive engineer at the Lakshadweep power department, says: “It will reduce emissions by 80-90% in comparison to diesel generators and outgo on account of subsidy will reduce from 80 crore per year to a meagre 8 crore every year.”
The plan is to set up biomass units with a total installed capacity of about 10 mw that will meet the power demand of the population. “Investment for the project has been pegged at 80 crore. It will be set up on a built, operate and transfer basis. The company that builds the units will run it for 10 years after which it will be transferred to the government,” said Chandar.
A detailed project report has been prepared and passed by the Lakshadweep authorities, which will start inviting expressions of interest next month, he said.