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5 X 100 KWe BIOMASS GASIFIER PLANT AT GOSABA ISLANDS IN SUNDERBANS, WEST BENGAL, INDIA Gosaba Biomass Gasifier Plant

was conceived in the year 1996 to electrify Gosaba Island, a major Island of Sundarbans. The island is the Block headquarter and there was no electricity. Market, commercial organizations, educational institutes etc. used to be closed before sunset. There were a few diesel generators run by individuals to supply electricity for about three hours at block office, hospital, etc. at a very high rate (present level of Rs.18.00 per kWh i.e. roughly 0.36). It in this context, WBREDA decided to set up countrys largest Biomass Gasification Plant for Village Electrification purpose at Gosaba Island. As a first step, Gosaba Rural Energy Co-Operative was formed in the year 1996 with the responsibility to provide power to the island people. A series of meetings were organized to generate awareness of the people on the technology, its limitations, its advantages, need for energy plantation programme etc. Land was arranged by the villagers. The prospective consumers became members of the CoOperative Society. Membership fee was kept at a minimal (i.e. 0.20) Rs.10/-. The membership carries voting rights with it. The first Board of Directors were nominated by the Government. Subsequently, elections took place regularly wherein consumers elected Board of Directors. The plant was commissioned in June, 1997 initially with only twenty four consumers. There was a resistance from the local diesel lobby but soon it declined since quality of power was better in case of biomass gasifier and duration of power supply was also longer. It took about one year to generate the confidence of the people that steady power could be provided from renewable energy sources without involving state utilities. Gradually, there was pressure on extension of local mini grid. The Rural Energy Co-Operative in its meeting decides which area should get priority and plans to draw the distribution line accordingly. At present, there are 1100 consumers of different categories. This includes domestic, commercial and industrial consumers. The tariff is decided by the Rural Energy CoOperative. Generally, they review the tariff once in a year. The revenue is collected by the CoOperative and interestingly, there are no defaulters. Gosaba Biomass Gasifier Plant operates on woody biomass. As such, supply of woody biomass is to be ensured for sustainability of the power plant. Sufficient waste land is required. At Gosaba, energy plantation work was taken up right from the planning stage of the power plant. Generally, it takes three to five years for harvesting of captive energy plantations. The initial three years is the load growth

period. Biomass consumption during that period is comparatively low and has to be arranged locally. In subsequent years, biomass is available from the captive energy plantation. This is a critical issue which requires a lot of attention. While Ankur Scientific was initially asked to operate and maintain the power plant for only three years, it was subsequently decided to continue this assignment for another year and a half. From the very beginning, the company took local, unemployed youths on its pay roll and operated and maintained the power plant after due training of these individuals. The overall management was looked after by the Service Manager of the company from Kolkata. A number of local youths were trained in system operation and overall responsibility was subsequently transferred to Rural Energy Co-Operative without much difficulty. pioneering project. The Gosaba Village has become a mini town due to availability of electricity. At the same time, it is maintaining its own entity as a village due to its isolation from the mainland. In 1996, there were only eleven shops in the Gosaba market. Now there are 76 shops with ice cream parlour, medicine shop with vaccine preservator, hotel, small fabrication shop etc. There is a hospital in Gosaba where people are now operated due to availability of continuous power supply. Cases of snake bite have reduced. Computer education centre, video shop and other power consuming units are now running. The entire life-style of the people has changed. The power plant operation has been very satisfactory and many more rural electrification projects have been planned and implemented on the basis of the success of this