I got an opportunity to listen to Gyanesh Pandey, CEO of Husk Power Systems in IIM Bangalore last month. I don’t know why but I find the HPS story of producing Bijli from Bhoosa (electricity from husk) fascinating. And listening to the story from Gyanesh increased my fascination even further. Based out of Bihar, HPS is doing to eradicate needless darkness in rural
I grew up hating my place (in North Bihar). Nothing made sense to me. Every single thing in the village costs you a little more, quality is poorer and people are lethargic. During holidays, I reluctantly came home from the boarding school. I tried to find reasons for not coming home. I could feel the depression all around.
I ended up becoming an engineer and going to the
I automatically assumed that something is not being done because technology for doing it doesn’t exist. This was a big mistake. For the next 5 years, I partnered with Ratnesh Yahav, my best friend from childhood and experimented with several leading edge technologies like polymer solar cells, fuel cells, micro-tidal energy and finally Jatropha based bio-diesel. All of them failed. By 2006 I was back to Bihar from the
At this point, I got an appointment to see a director at the Renewable Energy Development Agency. He asked me, “How are you going to electrify villages?” I said, “I don’t know. I will do something”. He hit a buzzer and called the peon. “Call the guy who just left the room” Then he told me, “Talk to him. He sells gasifiers. Why don’t you use something like that?” I knew biomass gasification was an old technology developed by Hitler for wartime. People don’t use it anymore. The dealer told me that there were 40 gasifiers being used in
The gasifiers were running on rice husk. 40% diesel and 60% gas – what is called dual-fuel mode. I came home after talking to him and worked out the math. I realized that 40% diesel model would not be economical. I started thinking, “Why can’t we use 100% gas?”
I started by finding out all I could on gasification based power generation. I found a paper from IISc and it said you can’t run an engine only on producer gas. Gasification is where you burn a biomass that generates a certain mixture of carbon monoxide and nitrogen and that mixture is combustible and becomes fuel. IIT Delhi had done a project. However, I couldn’t find a single instance where anybody said, “It has worked”. I tried to talk to a professor and he wasn’t even willing to talk to me. I just knew that all these people are wrong. I had no reason why.
At this point a scientist from MNRE, Mr. S K Singh encouraged me. Singh helped getting me hooked with a small engine maker from
How did Gyanesh-Ratnesh manage to raise money? How does HPS business model work? How did they do the pricing? You can find the full story here.