Small is beautiful, small is useful
An improvised mechanism named Hydroger is providing a sustainable solution for electricity to rural households in Nagaland.
Jayanta Kumar Sarma
“In our childhood, there was no provision for an electric light in the village. So we were not allowed to venture out of the house after dusk because it was believed that evil spirits roam in the dark. Now things have changed for the better; electricity is available and we have lights at night and people are educated too,” says 70-year-old Peter Tep of Old Tseminyu village in Nagaland’s Kohima district.
Tep is lucky. Like him, his fellow villagers -- comprising over 2000 people of the Rengma Naga tribe -- have electricity in their houses.
His childhood story of the night life cut short, however, may still be a reality to many villagers living across Nagaland. The State still has un-electrified villages where the source of nightly light is still a kerosene lamp. Worse, insufficient availability of kerosene makes it difficult for most villagers to keep such a lamp on overnight.
However, a little out-of-the-box thinking can certainly add quality to their lives. In fact, a solution is already at work in some parts of the State. Named Hydroger, it has been put together by Nagaland Empowerment of People through Energy Development (NEPeD), an autonomous body of the State Government. Hydroger is a Pico-hydel, a hydel power generation unit with less than 5kw capacity. The basic requirement for such unit is a flowing stream/source of water with adequate height differences. It does not require a large volume of water, can be set up even over a small stream. A 1kw Pico hydro can provide 24kwh of 220V, 50 Hz AC power per day, which can support minimum quantity of power to a clasp of rural families.
The mechanism of the Hydroger is simple, comprises a cylindrical cast iron housing and an alternator which are connected to the turbine through a shaft. Hydropower is used to turn the turbine to generate energy. The system has two categories of turbines – Impulse and Reaction turbines. The Impulse turbine, which produces power primarily from head pressure, utilises closed diversion system (fig.1, plate-1). On the other hand, Reaction turbines, which produce power from the volume of water, normally work best with an open diversion system (fig.2, plate-2).
Excited with the possibility of the turbines, NEPeD has set up a Centre of Excellence for Renewable Energy Studies (CERES) in Dimapur for mass production of Hydrogers. Right now, a Hydroger has a capacity of only 3kw, with rated Rpm of 750, frequency 50Hz, single phase and Voltage 230 to 240V. The required discharge range is 10 to 40 litres/second and head range 9 to 35 meters.
NEPeD also produces a prototype, Electronic Load Controller (ELC), which is an essential component of Hydroger. Its main function is to give steady power output by using a simple electronic load censors to control of constant Rpm of a generator, required frequency, overload, high voltage, low voltage and short circuiting. ELC can also be used as a synchroniser for coupling parallel connection to the Hydrogers. The gross weight of a Hydroger is 78 kg and ELC is 1kg, so it is not very difficult to carry it to intricate locations for installation. The total cost of a Hydroger and ELC comes to around Rs. 60,000excluding transportation cost.
At the NEPeD office,its Energy Team members Ayong Chng and Margaret Chasie share their experience of Hydroger installation and electrification programme in the State. So far, it has implemented it in 20 sites including nine individual farm sites. In case of the village electrification programme, NEPed provides infrastructure and technical guidance and support; the villagers contribute labour and locally available required material like bamboo. Initially, villagers form a committee called Hydroger Management Committee. It is mandatory to have three male members and three female members in the committee. NEPeD trains them on operation, maintenance and management of the unit. Usually, every household contributes Rs. 20 monthly as charges for power supply. Out of the collected money comes the salary of two persons who look after the operation and management of the unit. In this way, a decentralised people-centric system begins to function.
Villagers can utilise the benefits of electricity as they want. For example, in the Kingjung village in Tuensang district, a Hydroger supplies power to 95 households. People prioritised their need for power and worked out a system whereby in the day hours, the generated power is used for rural enterprises like carpentry works, blacksmith works, etc. and the night hours for household lighting and street lighting. Interestingly, with the availability of light at night people have started to carry out some works which can be performed inside the house, e.g. handicrafts.
Ayong and Margaret say more and more villagers are now becoming conscious of protecting the catchment areas of the streams from where they utilise water to run the Hydrogers. They now understand that if there is no water, there will be no power from the Hydroger. A new concept of watershed conservation and protection is evolving gradually, they add.
It is interesting to see that the model breeds positive impacts by evolving a model for sustainable electricity generation managed by grassroots groups; brings added value to agricultural products and supports rural enterprises. Moreover, it mobilises user groups for on-site training on the installation of Hydrogers. In the long run, it will develop some barefoot rural engineers. Above all,it empowers people to run a system of their own to meet their day to day energy needs.
( Jayanta Kumar Sarma is a freelance consultant in the area of Environment and Development and he has been working with NGO, Educational Institutions, private entrepreneurial farm and government agencies of North-east region. He did his Post graduation in Geography from Gauhati University and Post Master in Natural Resource Management from IIFM. The author is indebted to the Energy Team of NEPeD for its inputs to the article and for providing the photographs. )