Community Based Energy Systems
Generally energy production is centralized in large power plants, which are expensive to build, but provide relatively cheap energy for urban areas. Electricity is generally expensive and scarce in rural areas. Diesel generators tend to be very expensive, noisy and polluting. Running expensive 3 phase lines out to remote villages results in power losses of as much as 50% of the power during the process of transmitting. This lack of power is a big obstacle for rural development. Small to medium scale decentralized free standing renewable energy systems can be cost effective, and should be designed as an integral part of the village development master plan. Some of the systems that GSR plans to make us of are
This is a good option in rural communities that set up agricultural processing facilities that typically produce large amounts of biowaste. Good examples are edible oil mills (peanut, rapeseed, sunflower seed, etc), grain processing plants and sugar mills. Biomass plants can generally produce enough electricity to run the milling operation plus provide enough electricity 24/7 to the community
Jatropha production can produce 1200 gallons of diesel fuel per acre plus six tons of high quality organic fertilizer. Jatropha also makes a very nice border around fields. Cows wont eat it. Insects wont eat it. It protects crops from hungry pests – they don’t like the smell or the taste. Therefore jatropha makes a great hedge around fields. Simply by bordering their fields with jatropha, a village will be able to produce about 50,000 gallons of biodiesel fuel annually.
This equipment is ideal for converting biowaste (such as human and animal excrement) into usable products. The Cowpower Project in new Hampshire has set up biodigesters for several dairy farms. The 8000 cows on these farms produce almost 3 megawatts of power plus tons of fertilizer and sawdust used for bedding for the cows (each dairy farm used to purchase two trailer loads of sawdust per month for bedding for their cows. Now they don’t purchase any).
Local Solar Panel Manufacturing
Technological improvements make it possible for small low tech village companies to manufacture simple 200 watt solar panels for under $150. Five panels will provide 1 kilowatt of power for a rural home. This makes it possible to run a small cottage industry in the home. At $.20 per kilowatt hour, these 5 panels will produce about $3 power per day, or over $1000 power per year. Again the panels pay for themselves in less than a year. A home based business producing solar panels can give a family $20 per day, or about $7000 per year.