Author – Lopa Mishra Jana
Every breath we take brings with it an invigorating gust of air that fills us with the essence of life. It would be apt if this source of life would also help in producing sustainable energy. Fortunately, wind energy has harnessed for time immemorial, but in the last century, it is being used to generate livelihoods, create energy and save money, all in an eco-friendly and pollution-free manner.
Wind energy is harnessed by the use of windmills that consist of large blades moving steadily when the wind blows. A steady current of air rotates the blades of windmills to create mechanical energy that can either be used in-situ or can be harnessed into electrical energy through a dynamo. While there are numerous technologies available to harness wind energy, all of them are costly devices that need to be imported. A few innovators in India have invented some creative and cost-effective methods to harness the energy of wind and customize it for their purposes. Here are some of the interesting low cost windmills by Indian inventors to harness wind power –
Low Cost Windmill by C. M. Subramanian, Tamil Nadu
Sporadic power supply is a constant problem faced by people in rural and semi-urban areas in India. Further, regular maintenance of power infrastructure has its own monetary costs and different bureaucratic hurdles have to be overcome for setting up regular power supply. However, harnessing alternative energies using commercial infrastructure is not viable for small rural farmers.
Residing in Namakkal in rural Tamil Nadu, C. M. Subramanian also faced these problems to generate his own power. To solve this problem, he thought of an indigenous wind power alternative. Since the wind speed in his home town was pretty fast, he decided to build his own low cost windmill.
Subramanian sourced materials from a local hardware store and started building a windmill. In the first stage, he fabricated the windmill turbine blades using thick MS steel sheets and connected it to a dynamo, which stored the energy in automobile batteries connected to an inverter.
Subramanian’s low cost windmill can produce power of around 0.8-1.2kVA, generating 80 volts @10-15Amps, when the wind speed ranges between 3-3.5m/s. This much power is sufficient for a household. The turbine blades can be controlled from the ground to stop the blades or reverse the direction of rotation. The windmill can be useful to either for household lighting and heating or to power a irrigation pump.
USP – The major highlight of Subramanian’s windmill is its low cost and its customizability to either power a household or for irrigational purposes. Subramanian has filed an Indian patent for his innovation and his windmill is currently priced at INR75,000 ex-stores and packaging and other costs.
Tech specs – Power: 0.8-1.2kVA | Minimum wind speed: 3-3.5m/s. | Cost: INR75,000
Low speed wind power generator by Dineshbhai Ashodia
One major problem for a wind-based power generator is the requirement of high critical wind speed to create mechanical energy. This is a major hindrance in many places across India, where the wind speed is too low to generate adequate velocity for reaching criticality.
Dineshbhai Ashodia, a resident of Rajkot, Gujarat understood that this was a major impediment in harnessing wind energy. He created a dynamic system that can create power in low wind conditions also. The major innovation was to use a governor for creating centrifugal force to vary distance between the stator and the rotor, which allows low cutting wind speeds to start the generator.
Nirma Institute of Technology in Ahmedabad has tested this unique machine. Currently a project proposal has been submitted to National Innovation Foundation’s (NIF) The Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network for funding and commercial development, which would be a breakthrough in terms of harnessing wind energy even at low wind speeds. Apart from the generator, Dineshbhai has developed many products such as a wind-operated water pump, solar cooker, solar water heater etc. mainly by modifying conventional items.
USP – The key innovation is the use of a governor that allows the windmill generator to reach criticality even in low speeds. For this innovation, Dineshbhai has filed for a patent in the US.
Low-cost wind-powered pump by Mohammad Mehtar Hussain and Mushtaq Ahmad
The cost of commercial windmills is prohibitive for small farmers, which cannot be reduced as the material cost is pretty high. Mohammad Mehtar Hussain and Mushtaq Ahmad, two brothers from Muslimghopa in Assam thought of replacing the costly equipment with indigenous material to bring down the cost of the windmill.
They developed an innovative wind-powered pump using indigenous material such as local bamboo, wood, strips of tyres, iron pieces and aluminum sheets. Initially, they innovated on this design to harness wind energy in areas of constant wind speed, which would move the handle of tube-well to pump water.
USP – The pump requires low installation costs and negligible operating costs and cuts labor expenses for pumping water by up to 40%. A sponsored project installed around 50 windmills in Amreli district in Gujarat for salt farming as well as for potable water fitted with a tube well. The NIF’s Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network did a lot of research and modification on the crude prototype to create these fine-tuned wind pumps.