Husk Power Systems Provides Clean Energy to Rural People in Developing Countries
As a rural American, it’s easy for me to forget how much I personally have it. I have 24/7 access to electricity, internet and wireless service, unless I’m heading into the desert or deep into the woods. Even then, we have ham radio, satellite phones, and portable solar generators to provide us with the comforts of civilization no matter how far we go. But, all of this requires money, and rural people in developing countries simply don’t have the money for all of it.
In rural areas of the poorest countries, electricity is scarce. If you need it for something, you may be able to use a part-time diesel generator. Or, if you don’t want to foot the fuel bill and put up with the stench, a small solar power system can charge phones and a computer for part of the day, and light you up at night if you’re lucky. . After dark and after the used car battery is discharged, you can use a kerosene lamp.
But the refrigerators, air conditioners, microwave ovens and other appliances that we take for granted? Yeah, forget that. Unless you want to pay big bucks for more fuel, a better generator, or a bigger solar panel, you can’t run devices 24/7 or add vital working machines like the can people on a power grid.
It’s something Husk Power Systems try to change. The company sets up the electrical systems, then bills local residents only for the energy they use so they don’t have to fork out the money up front. The smart metering system works with a mobile app, allowing people to monitor their energy use, instead of a surprise bill later.
Here is a video showing how the company’s first hybrid gasification (biogas) and solar battery system works:
While gasification sounds bad on the surface, it’s carbon neutral if you feed it biomass like Husk does. The amount of carbon introduced into the atmosphere is usually very close to what plants took out of the atmosphere, and plants would likely have put the carbon back into the atmosphere by decomposition in most cases. This, of course does not apply to the combustion or treatment of all biomass, but agricultural biomass was never going to be permanent like, say, a forest would have been if it hadn’t been used.
Many people in developing countries may ignore fossil electricity altogether
While there is some skepticism of the concept, the concept of “leapfrog” is very real, even if it is not perfect. The adoption of mobile phones predated landlines in many developing countries, as they were the first available phones. Husk’s hybrid biomass-solar-storage systems are a case in point. Instead of getting electricity from a coal-fired power plant, perhaps the most rural and electricity-hungry people in the developing world could switch directly to renewables.
The best thing about it is that, as the developing world demands better standards of living, they won’t necessarily have to go through a cycle of heavy emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases to get there. If we can help make this happen, we can all win.
Image presented by the US Department of Defense (public domain)
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