AVANI-Caring for the earth: Harnessing the destructive energy of pine needles for rural energy needs

About This Project

AVANI converts destructive pine needles in to clean and affordable energy (1.2 kilograms of pine needles = 1 KWh of electricity) for incomes, biodiversity regeneration and reducing carbon emissions.

Problem

Basanti Devi lives in Chachret, a remote village in Uttarakhand state of the Central Himalayan Region, with her husband and three children. She walks four miles every day collecting fuel wood, before she can cook a meal for her family. Basanti Devi recounts that she walks longer every year to collect fuel, and her family faces shortage of water for their daily life as well as fodder for her cattle. Her family also does not have a permanent source of income and their very existence is at stake. Multiply this by 700000 families and the situation looks scary.

Come summer months, the forest around her village rages with fire spread by carpet of pine needles, preventing access to ecological services (water, herbs, timber) that her family is dependent on the forest for. Multiply this by 15000 villages to appreciate the extent of devastation.

While, the fire destroys the life around her, Basanti Devi wonders if all this energy could be used to meet her and 700,000 other such families’ energy needs, her vows would come to an end, but she knows that on her own, she can’t do this, as pine needles are highly flammable and would need some intervention before she can make use of those.

Solution

AVANI set up gasification based power plant using pine needles as feed stock for generation of electricity and cooking charcoal. The generated electricity is used for rural cottage industry or pumped in the grid and cooking charcoal is briquetted for cooking in rural kitchens.

By using pine needles for generation of electricity and cooking charcoal, we are giving an economic reason to remove pine needles for ecological conservation where the rural poor participate in conserving ecology by making incomes. In the process, we are creating clean cooking and electrical energy, a major factor for human survival as well as development, reducing carbon emissions and driving development.

Our innovation is impacting the gender bias by making fuel while enhancing other ecological services. Women are the major fuel, fodder and water (eco-services) gatherers, yet considered non productive. They can now spend their fuel gathering time collecting 10 times more pine needles while generating an income, getting access to cooking charcoal, enhanced eco-services, and smoke free indoors, resulting in better health and reduction of drudgery.

AVANI is looking to build a sustainable energy generation and delivery business. Our approach is small scale (100-150Kw capacity) village level power plants bundled together to create an impact on employment, biodiversity, and carbon emissions. We are working with Acumen Fund to invest in building up to 2.4 MW capacity power plants to generate electricity for meeting demand of over 100,000 people in the next five years, make cooking fuel for over 10,000 people and create 2000 jobs providing livelihood for 10,000 people. This should also bring enhanced eco services to10000 people.

Innovation: Production Innovation

In a world of continuously increasing energy demand, which is straining fragile ecosystems to the edge, we have developed an energy production system which enhances the ecosystem instead of stressing it.

We pioneered the process development of use of pine needles for energy production and have already set up our first 9 KW power generating system.

It is the rural poor who are first victims of natural resource degradation, energy deficiency and further strain on these resources. Our project breaks that cycle by producing energy from that very cause of ecological degradation creating a situation for rural poor, where they can have access to cooking and electrical energy while enhancing natural resource and incomes, all at the same time.

Power generation from pine needles contributes to emission reduction. With our planned 20 power plants in the next 5 years, an estimated 60,000 tons of carbon reduction per year will be acheived.

Marketing Innovation

in an area where people do not have disposable incomes to pay for cooking fuel, our project enables people to earn and pay. People will earn money through collection of pine needles, and a fraction of this income will be enough to pay for their cooking fuel requirements.

Use of existing grid to ensure reliable electricity for rural poor living in tail end villages. An agreement with Uttarakhand Power Corporation Limited (UPCL) has been signed to pump electricity in the grid for use on tail end villages. This will also be the main source of revenue.

Useful links:

http://www.avani-kumaon.org/

http://energymap-scu.org/

http://www.undp.org.in/sites/default/files/reports_publication/ACE.pdf

This article originally appeared on Mahindra Spark the Rise.com Avani  is also one of the winners (ranked 4th) of the 1st season of  Spark the Rise!

Image courtesy: Mahindra Spark the Rise

 

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