This Tribal Hamlet In Kerala Gets Electricity After 74 Years from Micro-Hybrids

Highlights :

  • Narendra Nath Veluri, CEO, ANERT informs that there are 40 similar micro hybrid projects to be undertaken in tribal hamlets of Kerala. This is the first such project to have taken shape, while two other tenders for the projects have been floated.


This Tribal Hamlet In Kerala Gets Electricity After 74 Years from Micro-Hybrids Micro-hybrids in tribal hamlets

For 75 years, a hamlet in Attapaddi, Kerala was shrouded in the dark, deprived of the basic human need- electricity. Forest fires, wild animal attacks and remoteness were some of the factors that prevented the establishment of renewable energy projects here. The tribal population, which dominates the hamlet, had been extremely possessive of its culture and rights, allowing no stranger/s to hover around in the area, especially for commercial activities or projects. This, of course, further amplified the challenge for firms to implement renewable energy projects here.

Kerala Government-owned, Agency for New and Renewable Energy Research and Technology (ANERT), which strives to introduce modern renewable energy technologies to rural area to “reduce drudgery”, put out a tender in January 2023 to award the project for a 50kW wind-solar hybrid power plant in the reclusive area via competitive bidding. The project for the hybrid power plant has helped electrify 44 houses, 15 streetlights and one Anganwadi centre This, however, was not a regular tender. It had laid out clearly in the terms and conditions that only the indigenous tribe from the hamlet would undertake labour services. The project cost, fixed at Rs 25L, was a lucrative deal, that would help augment the income of the tribal labourers from the hamlet.

The Herculean Task

Having bagged the ANERT contract, WindStream Energy Technologies, which designs scalable renewable energy technology that integrates solar and wind power generation, was to ensure the successful implementation of the project in the tribal hamlet.

However, the task was easier said than done as several challenges were staring them in the face.

Over the course of over a year, about a 20-member team from the firm’s  marketing, design, product development, manufacturing, installation and commissioning teams worked closely with about 40 site labour and semi-skilled workers to make the system operational.

The project location, which is the remote forest area in the Bhavani Range under Silent Valley Reserved Forest Range, at the Thazhe Thudukki Tribal Hamlet, offered zero source of communication, with no mobile network.

Micro hybrids

The most challenging aspect of this project was finding suitable labour to mobilize and assist in moving 120 tons of civil and electrical materials. The task was Herculean since the path consisted of a linear contour that was constantly threatened by animals, snakes, and leeches. However, the access to the path to transport material while crossing slippery boulders and flowing rivers was not the only challenge that seemed insurmountable. It was perhaps the incessant and unpredictable nature of rainfalls, sometimes forest fires, that constantly hindered the progress and the development of the project.

The wild elephants that wouldn’t budge, gave the manpower a tough time, threatening the safety of the executing teams and raw material being stored in the makeshift warehouses in the remote locations. The project, however, finally saw the light of the day in a period of nine months. Determination and grit coupled with acumen had turned what seemed like an impossible to accomplish, into reality.


Micro-hybrids in tribal hamlet

Micro-hybrids & their benefits

Venkat Kumar Tangirala, MD, Windstream

Venkat Kumar Tangirala, MD, Windstream

The 50kW wind-solar hybrid power plant micro-hybrids) are generating approximately 190 kWH – 220 kWH (units/day) for basic loads operation and operating a maximum load of 145-165W in each house. 44 houses that were unfamiliar with electricity, finally have access to power at all times since the microgrid has a storage system of 240V 1000AH designed for 24-hour backup.

Venkat Kumar Tangirala, Managing Director of WindStream Energy Technologies, tells us what micro-hybrids are and why they are high on efficiency, “Micro hybrids are a collection of solar and vertical axis wind turbine systems are highly efficient as they harness power both low wind and solar energy and most suitable for remote off-grid applications.”


WindStream hybrid microgrid project in tribal hamlet

Micro hybrids have other advantages to offer. They can complement power generation in all seasons, easy to mount or install, scalable and modular power generation- with no complicated masts, guy wires required- all while being eco-friendly, operating in silence, causing no harm to animals.

Economic opportunities to the disadvantaged

Tangirala adds, “This will ultimately improve the economic power of the family over time. The government’s primary objective is to provide a better standard of living and safe living conditions in the initial phase, with plans to add other activities that create employment opportunities.” He further avers, “The tribals can now work on modern farming techniques like drip irrigation, bring new areas to cultivation as they can power the water pumps, improve the facilities to educate the children ( digital and distance education) and even protect themselves from dangerous animals.”

He concludes, “This has enabled villagers to get access to education even at night and also provide a possibility of access to proper television connections. The project represents a significant milestone in the electrification of the tribal hamlet and underscores  the government’s commitment to improving the quality of life for its citizens. The project has proven to be a historic change by improving their quality of living.”

Last year, WindStream won a similar project by ANERT for a tribal hamlet in Kerala, which was provided with 1.5 KW hybrid power plants at a cost of Rs 28 lakh. Each of the hybrid installations produces 1 KW of solar and 500 watts of wind on a daily basis besides providing a good amount of power for a 10-hour battery backup.

On the Cards Now..

Narendra Nath Veluri, CEO, ANERT informs that there are 40 similar micro hybrid projects to be undertaken in tribal hamlets of Kerala. This is the first such project to have taken shape, while two other tenders for the projects have been floated. The CEO hopes to complete them before the onslaught of the rainy season. The funding for these projects is yet to be worked out.

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