Inspiring self-powered village – Odanthurai

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Author – Priyadharshini B

Global warming, depleting natural resources, increasing carbon emissions, soil and water pollution; these are some of the issues that have become a major concern for countries across the world. While I was wondering how to change our world that is filled with pollution and haphazard development, I happened to visit a village with a difference that was evident from its lush green surroundings.

As a part of my renewable energy field trip, I visited a village called Odanthurai Gram Panchayat situated 40 kilometers north of Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu. In a country where villages are still struggling with inadequate power supply and expect the government to fix the problem, self-powered Odanthurai has set an example by producing its own green power for its needs. We met the Panchayat President Shanmugam who explained the details about his village’s clean energy sources.

Odanthurai powersThe most notable among  Odanthurai’s self-help ventures is the 350-kw wind power generator that was set up in 2006 under the direction of a well functioning gram panchayat. Having seen the government help many private companies acquire land in Coimbatore district at subsidized prices for wind power projects, the enterprising Shanmugam thought, “Why not we set up a wind power project under panchayat ownership? After all a village community is the most legitimate owner of land and wind, the two natural resources that are enough for power generation.”

Shanmugam worked out the costs: a small wind turbine would cost INR2.3 crore; Odanthurai panchayat could produce INR35 lakh as down-payment for a bank loan. With government support, the panchayat would need a bank loan of INR1.15 crore. The gram panchayat liked the proposal and gave its collective seal of approval. This one-of-its-kind proposal took the district administration by surprise. It was hard to imagine a panchayat aspiring to be as entrepreneurial as a private company!

The Tamil Nadu state government sanctioned the project under the Remunerative Enterprises Scheme. Commissioned in 2006, the project became the first ever power project undertaken by a local body in India.

The wind-farm in the Odanthurai generates 7.5 lakh units of electricity in a year. While the panchayat’s need is only 4.5 lakh units, the remaining power is sold to the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, fetching an annual income of INR19 lakh. “After repaying the bank loan of INR1.15 crore over seven years, the cost of generating electricity will be virtually zero,” beams Shanmugam.

Odanthurai-Shanmugam

Odanthurai Panchayat has made inroads in other renewable sources of energy as well. It has installed a 9kW biomass gasifier power generation system to substitute the grid electricity for pumping drinking water. The biomass gasifier system saves about 70% of pumping cost as compared to grid electricity (see table). The panchayat is purchasing waste wood pieces from a saw-mill in the village at low price of INR0.3/kg ($6.7/ton) as fuel of the gasifier. Low demand for waste wood for cooking purposes might have contributed for such a low price.

Other renewable energy projects underway are solar street lighting and biogas using human and cattle excrement. The biogas system is connected to each house for cooking purpose, which helps to reduce firewood usage. Through these efforts, the village has found that total energy planning rather than just electrification can improve the efficiency.

Comparison of operational cost per unit for the power system of Odanthurai Panchayat:

EconomicsGrid PowerGasifier System
ElectricityRs. 4.5/ kWhRs.0.45/ kWh
Labor costRs.0.45
Maintenance costRs.0.07Rs.0.28
TotalRs.5.02Rs.1.39
ElectricityRs. 4.5/ kWhRs.0.45/ kWh

Summary of Odanthurai Panchayat’s Gasifier System: 

EconomicsGrid Power
Plant capacity9kW
Cost of installationRs. 310,000 ($6,700
MNES subsidiesRs. 135,000
Panchayat contributionRs. 175,000
No. of consumers3,497 people
Operation hours12 hours
Tariff structureRs. 30 ($0.67) / HH / month
Fuel efficiency1.5kg of dry wood / kWh
Cost of fuelRs. 0.30 / kg

Factfile –

http://www.caleidoscope.in/eco-ideaz/odanthurai-powers-ahead-with-entrepreneurial-zeal

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/Winds+of+change/1/10443.html

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