Fully Charged!

Fully Charged!

28 March 2012 by Kavitha Srinivasa

Energy was the hot topic at the concluding session of the Emtech India 2012 conference presented by MIT's Technology Review and CyberMedia, the largest specialty media house in South Asia.

India is in the process of taking a 'Powerful' leap as the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) is preparing to make it the world's first market for trading in energy savings by about 2014. The power ministry has etched out a blueprint for industrial plants to save energy as they trade in energy. BEE is an agency of the Government of India.

While we wait to be fully powered, the conference saw tech innovators; scientists and enterprises offer energy solutions for everyone across the spectrum. The solutions ranged from basic requirements of the rural poor who needed electricity to light up their home to energy efficient solutions for blue chip companies. Some of them were futuristic innovative efforts others simply looked at the existing system and came up with easy-to-use measures.

Simpa Networks, a Bangalore-based firm has taken the Biblical refrain 'Let there be Light' into power-starved rural homes. Quite understandable, since 75 million households in India don't have electricity and 150 million make do with partial electricity. Notwithstanding that, clean energy is known to be expensive. The company hit upon the idea of creating affordable alternate energy solutions for the poor through a Progressive Purchase model with a flexible payment option.

"We arrived at this concept by introducing a pay-as-you-go pricing to rural households. We built a technology platform using the mobile space," said Shashi Kumaraswamy, Vice President, Technology, Simpa Networks. The company cracked the formula by allowing customers to make an initial payment, available in denominations that range from Rs 50 to Rs 500. The solar home system operates for a paid amount of energy consumption, whereby payments happen through mobile phones. The system can be recharged through local agents via SMS. Once the meter runs out, it switches off and resumes when payments are made. After several recharges that happen over the next three to five years, the system unlocks and produces solar power for free. After lighting up homes in Karnataka, Simpa Networks plans to extend its expertise to West Bengal in the coming months.

Scientist TV Ramachandra's research on algae has revealed interesting and probably unknown aspects. A path-breaking revelation being that algae can be used to harness energy. "There are around 12,000 algae in India and we are in the process of prioritizing algae. We will also focus on diatoms, which are single cell algae depending on which ones have more lipid content. This will be used to extract oil," added TV Ramachandra, Professor, Ecological Sciences, Center for Sustainable Technologies, Indian Institute of Science, as he shared his insight. Diatoms found in freshwater ecosystems, can be genetically engineered and milked (quite like a cow) to extract oil, without crushing them. The buck doesn't stop here. Being carbon neutral, diatoms can be used as cost-effective solar panels and address global warming to an extent in times to come. Ramachandra's immediate concern is to document biodiversity at the village level. Uttara Kannada, a district in Karnataka has been identified for the project, supported by the Government of Karnataka.

Moving beyond carbon fixation, most speakers demonstrated that an integrated approach to energy management could yield energy efficiency.

The poster boy of the conference turned out to be Rahul Sarpeshkar, the Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering, MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Sarpeshkar kept the audience engrossed as he spoke about analog, RF and bio-inspired circuits and architectures that have led to ultra-low-power biomedical applications. "We are in talks with the healthcare industry in India as our products will roll out commercially. Our implantable medical devices like the bionic ear processors will find applications for the hearing impaired, brain-machine interfaces for the visually impaired and those having paralysis," he said positively.

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    Posted By: Kavitha Srinivasa @ 28 March 2012 06:45 PM     General  

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