Electrical engineer Gyanesh Pandey, 35, has never met Shahrukh Khan. But, his story, which won international accolade on Tuesday, is remarkably similar to Khan’s portrayal of a NRI engineer providing water to his native village in the film Swadesh. Instead, of water, the 35 year old has given cheap and clean electricity generated from waste rice husk to 380 of the poorest villages in West Champaran district of Bihar and his work is now one of the five most innovative green projects in the world.
Ashden Awards for sustainable energy in London said Pandey’s company, Husk Power Systems provides clean, reliable electricity supply and cost less than the alternatives. “Husk Power’s 65 plants gasify rice husks and other biomass waste to supply electricity to around 180,000 people and, by replacing kerosene, they cut greenhouse emissions by over 8,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year,” said a statement issued by Ashden Awards.
Pandey, at the age of 31, quit his lucrative MNC job in Los Angeles, eight years after passing out from the Benaras Hindu University and pursuing a dream career like many of his contemporaries in United States. All changed in 2006, when Pandey failed a Vipassana course in Los Angeles and his desire to carry out rural development work in his village and being “homesick” convinced him to shun is bright career option in the growing semi-conductor industry in US. “I was back in 2007 and discussed my dream with Ratnesh Yadav, my old friend,” he recalled and said the break came when an official in the ministry of new and renewable energy offered help to generate electricity from rice husk.
Later that year, on the anniversary of India’s 60th year of independence, the two set up their first unit in the rundown village of Tamkuha (meaning Fog of Darkness) — one of the three lakh Indian villages that don’t have electricity — in Dhanaha region of the district.
It was for the first time the villagers experienced electricity like a few others in Bundelkhand in Central India, benefited from a similar clean energy project. For a monthly rental of Rs 100, 50 Watt of power, enough to light two compact fluorescent lamps and a mobile phone charger, is provided to each of the 32,500 households now. It has reduced monthly kerosene consumption by six to seven litres, translating into a saving of around Rs 200. The husk power system plant, which runs for eight hours every day, generates 35 KW of power and has a electricity distribution system to cover villages within two kilometers. “It just a start,” said Pandey claiming that he was made for rural development and it was his mission now. The company plans to set up 1,000 such units from 65 by 2014.