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The use of biomass gasification technology to convert rice husk into combustible gases and drive a generator to produce clean electricity at affordable rates, has been attracting considerable interest in the energy sector, reports Business Standard.

This technology is being promoted by Husk Power Systems, founded in 2007 by a US-trained engineering graduate Gyanesh Pandey and his friend Ratnesh Yadav.

According to Pandey, for more than 125,000 villages in India, access to electricity is a distant dream. Further, more than 25,000 villages have been declared economically impossible to reach via conventional methods.

Husk Power Systems employs about 270 people across villages where it has set up miniature off-grid power plants. These plants are fueled by rice husks, an agricultural by-product of the rice growing process. Once the plant is set up, the villagers take care of the rest of the operations and ensure its smooth run on their own.

These plants have found ready acceptance in Bihar and other rice-growing states in eastern India where husks are normally discarded into landfills where they rot and produce methane.

The government noticed what Pandey and his partners were doing and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy extended their subsidy scheme to fit the needs of the project. Pandey is ready to set up 2014 electricity generator plants by 2014. “We call it 2014 by 2014 and would like to light up 5,000 villages across India,” he says.

According to a report by the news agency Bloomberg, these power plants produce just 35-100kW, compared to an average coal plant which produces about 500MW, but have to serve far fewer people. The company builds a plant in an area, wires up 200-500 households, and then buys the agricultural waste at a pre-negotiated rate. Once that's complete, the villagers are charged for the electricity on a pay-for-use basis.

The first plant was inaugurated in August 2007 in Tamkuha, Bihar. The company identified a further 25,000 villages across Bihar and its neighbouring states as feasible sites for building power plants. Each site requires three employees -- an operator, an electrician and bill collector and a husk loader, and a minimum of about 185 square metres of ground, which is leased for a period of ten years, says the report.

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