Posted by Isaac Song on January 19, 2016
The Global Social Impact Practicum is a new course led by Booth's Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) and supported by the Tata Trusts, India’s largest philanthropic organization. Beginning with a trip to India and culminating at the end of Winter Quarter, students will work with the Trusts on a consulting project aimed at making bamboo a crop of choice for clean energy and as a potential driver of employment in rural India.
Here, Isaac Song, MBA ’16, and Noa Dagan, MBA ’16, share insights from the trip.
A few days into our weeklong trip to India, we traveled with our fellow students in the Global Social Impact Practicum, as well as staff from the Tata Trusts, from Mumbai to Gujarat. We went to India’s westernmost state of Gujarat to visit Ankur Scientific, an Indian company which is the world leader in creating biomass gasifier-based power generation systems. In short, Ankur’s system converts biomass (e.g. rice husks and branches) to gas and, eventually, to usable electricity. So how does this all happen?
First, a little background: there are four main sources of renewable energy: bioenergy (biogas, biodiesel, and biomass), wind electric generators, solar energy, and mini hydro power plants. Biomass is the oldest form of fuel and has existed as asource of energy since man discovered the fire.
Because biomass gasifiers like Ankur’s use organic matter that’s all around us and is considered waste, the fuel is plentiful and inexpensive. The gasification process itself is environmentally friendly and the capital expenditures are relatively low. During our visit, we were able to understand the process and the sources of biomass energy generation and also see the actual gasifiers both large scale and small scale.
Additionally, the systems themselves are compact and relatively easy to operate. Because biomass gasification systems can be installed in rural areas, villages with very limited energy access are able connect to a stable power source. One could easily imagine them being operated in a small cluster of villages in a rural area.
What impressed us the most about the whole process and Ankur Scientific’s operation is how it turns every torn branch and coconut shell into a valuable asset. The possibility of creating power and enabling people to increase their income from what is considered waste defines the words uncaptured opportunity.