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Friday, May 4, 2012

Mera Gao MicroGrid Power among the 10 emerging tech list of Technology Review

Electricity, which is a basic necessity in developed world is a luxury to millions of Indian living in rural areas. Energy Scenario in India is complex, on one hand close to 400 million mostly rural residents do not have access to power, on the other hand where power is available, almost 50% generated energy is lost duet to poor electrical infrastructure and power theft. At the same time, the economy is growing at 7-8% per year, and the demand for energy is skyrocketing for all practical purposes. Due to acute energy shortage, global climate issues, and scarce resources India cannot pursue traditional model for energy generation and distribution.

The country has to adopt new model such  as distributed generation or MicroGrid, where sustainable energy is generated and distributed in local area. Nowhere is so practical and sustainable than rural India, where energy demand is up-to basic needs like lighting bulbs, cooking, or charging cellphones. Such needs, which are at present met by expensive and/or polluting fuel like Kerosene and Woods, provide untapped market for clean tech companies, especially, when government is facilitating this opportunities through National Solar Mission.

One such company known as "Mera Gao MicroGrid Power (MGP)", which serves this "Bottom of Pyramid " market was recently selected for its unique MicroGrid technology as one of the 10 emerging technology of 2012 by the Technology Review.  Mera Gao Power provides seven hours of electricity to per household that powers two LED light bulb and a mobile charging station through its Solar MicroGrid for the cost of $0.50 per week. Founded by two US born entrepreneurs, Nikhil Jaisinghani and Brain Shaad, It primarily operates in Uttar Prades (UP), which is one of the poorer state in India where shortage of electricity is so acute. According to Technology Review, the falling cost of LED and Solar panels has made it possible to operate MicroGrid that provides services for which the poor can afford. The MeraGaoPower uses just four solar panel to supply electricity to 100 households at the total cost of $2500. The grid uses 24 volt DC throughout, which allows to use aluminum wiring instead of the expensive copper wire. To effectively minimize the loss of energy, the village is carefully mapped before installation for efficient arrangement of distribution lines.
MGP Micro-Grid model (source www.meragaopower.com)
                                 

According to Jaysinghani, the mapping and design is their biggest innovation. The company, which deployed the first commercial micro-grid in last summer, is now supplying power to eight more villages and has plan to scale upto 50 villages by end of this year. For which, it has received $300,000 grant from USAID, however,  according to guardian, the founders have vision to supply micro-grid based power to 100,000 household by 2016 requiring many more investment in the future. The Distributed Energy Generation (DER) is $2 billion potential market in India considering 114 million people spend $75 for such services per month, according to World Resource Institute (WRI),a Washington DC based think tank.

For Villagers, who don't have access to grid electricity, this means cheap quality power at home and relief from kerosene, which is pollutant and health hazard, for which, often they have to pay expensive price due to black marketing.  The mobile charging station provides another relief from traveling long distance for the sake of charging phone and paying expensive price. According to Guardian report,  for the villagers it is just more than light, it is an opportunity to do more after the dark. The report describe what villagers feels in their own words. 


"I wanted this light straight away, as it enables me to cook after dark," said Muni-devi, a grandmother from the village of Kaharanpura who makes samosas to sell at the local market. "With longer hours to work, I can earn more for my family each day."

Santram Pal, a father of four from the neighboring village of Chuck, was exuberant, too. "I'm very happy with the lights," he said. "Now my children can study at night and my house won't go so black inside from the smoke. Thieves won't come either."

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