According to reports, union minister of new & renewable energy Farooq Abdullah assured all possible financial help to villages of Uttar Pradesh to help them develop alternative sources of electrification while inaugurating the ‘Biomass energy based village electrification’ and ‘cold storage’ project in a village of Sitapur on Thursday.
The project is first of its kind in UP where biomass is being used to supply power to a cold storage in a village to preserve fruits and vegetables of farmers. UP farmers have always been grappling with poor grid supply in villages which has been affecting their irrigating practices, children’s studies and household chores. Even companies are reluctant to set up industries in villages which have insufficient power supply. This results in poor job avenues for locals, who then migrate to cities for livelihood.
Also, due to lack of proper storage and transit facilities, about 22% of agricultural produce, especially fruits and vegetables is spoiled. The wastage in fruits and vegetables is estimated to be worth about Rs 330 billion in India. To end this vicious circle, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) launched the concept of using indigenously available biomass resources for operating small and decentralised cold storage at village level.
In addition, they also wanted to supply off-grid (alternative energy) power to electrify households of villages. TERI installed its first project in Bilariya village of Sitapur with support of two Australian agencies, AusAid (managing Australia’s overseas aid program) and CSIRO (Australian premier research organization). TERI said apart from electrification of households, the project will benefit in many other ways like creating job opportunities, developing alternative power source and recharging electronic lamps, mobile phones, etc.
The project is supplying electricity to over 140 households in nearby villages and a cold storage facility in Bilariya. A prepaid metering system is installed in households to ensure that villagers are paying only for the number of units they are consuming. The biggest advantage is that the cold storage (15 metric tonnes capacity) can easily preserve agrarian produce at 0 degree Celsius.
R K Pachauri, director-general of TERI, said, “We aim to install more such projects in villages of UP. We have met several times with the officials and the CM but there seems a lack of initiative from the state government to support such projects.” Alternative energy projects are solution to the current power shortage in country. “States should help such projects financially as villagers cannot afford to run it on their own”, he added.
The biomass electrification project has a capacity of 50 kilowatt but due to paucity of financial resources and lack of raw material to run the plant, the project is currently running at a capacity of 15 KW. A village community has been formed to maintain and operate the facility and look after villagers’ requirements. TERI would assist the project for 2 years, after which it would be transferred to the community.
Villagers were apprehensive about sustainability of the model as they were facing challenges in sourcing funds from the government. The minister assured that he would extend financial help to the villages to develop more such alternative energy projects.