High on hydrogers

Nagaland is exporting an idea that marries power consumption with conserving the hill ecosystem, reports Rahul Karmakar.

india Updated: Jun 05, 2010 01:35 IST
Rahul Karmakar
Rahul Karmakar
Hindustan Times

What happens if you mix a Chinese-made hydro-generator with common sense? Answer: an indigenous hydroger.

Thanks to some smart thinking, Nagaland has found a clean and relatively inexpensive way to produce electricity for a power-starved state, bogged down by decades of militancy.

The story dates back to 1994, when members of the Nagaland Empowerment of People through Energy Development (NEPeD) –– an organisation funded by the state government, India-Canada Environment Facility and International Development Research Centre –– got hold of a Chinese hydro generator.

A few in NEPeD thought out-of-the-box. The outcome was an unimpressive looking hydroger –– an improvised watermill that produces 2-5KW electricity when placed in a stream running downhill.

It wasn’t until 2008 that NEPeD and Dimapur-based Mini Tool Room (MTR) developed the hydroger. “We were set back by three years because Roorkie University failed to respond to our request for studying and analysing the Chinese machines we sent them in 2005,” said Takum Chang, leader of NEPeD’s energy team.

Roorkie’s alleged unresponsiveness was a blessing in disguise. NEPeD and MTR went on to develop a special, long-lasting magnet that eliminated the complications and fragility of an alternator, the mainstay of most Indian machines. “The magnet made our hydrogers (the impulse variant needs more head or water force to run while the reaction type is for streams with less head but more volume of water) more portable and easy to handle,” said Chang.

The hydroger also turned out to be 50 per cent cheaper than the Chinese hydropower generating units. Installing a hydroger costs Rs 1 to Rs 2 lakh, depending on the size of the machine, the terrain and transportation.

Today, Nagaland has more than 240 hydrogers in some 200 villages. NEPeD has also ventured out to set up 5KW hydrogers at Singner village in Assam’s Karbi Anglong, at Mizoram capital Aizawl and at Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh where 42 major hydropower projects are in various stages of completion.

Nagaland’s hydroger has reached faraway Songaon village in Maharashtra too. “We brought a 2KW hydroger from Nagaland in April 2008 primarily to power streetlights, since the village experiences power cuts after dusk,” Makarand P Joshi told HT from Ratnagiri.

But the hydroger has its drawbacks. It needs fast-flowing and voluminous water to run, periodic maintenance and electrical load control (ELC) or a stabilizer to prevent voltage fluctuation that wears out light bulbs fast.

“We are working on the ELC to make our hydrogers unbeatable. Next is giving shape to a theory involving multiple hydrogers (cascading system) and directing the generated power through a localised grid system for a cluster of villages to enjoy uninterrupted electricity,” said NEPeD’s Ari Jamir. “We can then be content with our mission to provide power without affecting the mountain ecosystem.”

First Published: Jun 04, 2010 01:40 IST