Profitable renewable rural power in India

Husk Power is getting attention for setting up ‘meso-power’ gasification plants in small rural villages in India.  They turn rice husks (otherwise a waste biproduct of rice harvesting) into electricity by converting cellulose to gas and then to power, which they sell to off-grid villagers at rates competitive to other conventional power sources.

Most crucial tidbit: they make a profit along the way.  It’s far cheaper than wind or solar, and the primary ingredient is already onsite.  As pointed out in an interview with NextBillion:

If you took a map of the world’s energy poor areas and compare it to a map of rice producing areas, these two maps would look nearly identical.

There are five pilot sites up and running already which, the company claims, have all reached profitability within six months.

If it’s all true, this is a great example of the profit potential of clean tech, as well as a for-profit development initiative that finally moves beyond microcredit.  In a perfect world, Husk Power will stimulate local economies all over the developing world by providing infrastructure that small businesses need to survive but couldn’t otherwise afford–without depleting resources or emitting greenhouse gasses.

There are some questions worth asking, though.  Is Husk Power a US-based company, and thus are profits essentially extracted from villages?  If so, regardless of ethical implications, how much does that deplete a community’s ability to invest in further industry and resources to take advantage of the power?  Also, how compatible will the infrastructures that Husk Power delivers (gasification stations, power lines, etc) be with each other and other technologies in the future?

Again, an interesting one to watch.

© Ryan Cunningham 2008

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1 Response to “Profitable renewable rural power in India”


  1. 1 Gale November 11, 2008 at 12:44 am

    Great post but remember that if it wasn’t profitable then there wouldn’t be a company to provide the gasifiers to rural areas. The company is getting a fair exchange for the value they are giving these communities. In return, just watch those villages now with electricity and hot water, they will enjoy even more prosperity than ever before. If you are interested in some free gasifier plans or videos on the basics of biomass gasification or biowaste gasification then check out http://victorygasworks.com

    It’s an online community on alternative energy and gasification.


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thoughts at the collision of business, brand and creativity

I'm Ryan Cunningham. I help companies and culture play nice with each other. At CREATURE we call this Brand Strategy, a term that carries a nice halo of reliability and structure. Here, I'm just another guy who thinks about the world and writes it down from time to time.

The result is a pile of knowledge to be used in, and for, the future. Feel free to sift through the heap for useful connections.

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