Husk Power systems, started by University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business students converts rice husks into energy and has created proprietary technology that cost-effectively converts rice husks into electricity.
The startup earlier won $250K seed funding from DFJ/Cisco; and later raised funding from Shell foundation (in 2009). The company has now raised $5mn in equity funding to augment its expansion plans (source/via).
Rice husks (the casing on the outside of rice grains) have traditionally been discarded. However, upon heating, rice husk releases gas and which Husk Power systems (HPS) uses to run modified diesel engines to generate electricity. The waste product of the process is high in silica and can be sold to concrete manufacturers.
HPS provides end-to-end renewable energy solutions by installing 25-kW to 100-kW ‘mini power plants’ and then wiring villages and hamlets of up to 4000 inhabitants to deliver electricity on a pay-for-use basis. The company uses a biomass gasification based proprietary electricity generation process, that generates electricity using 100% producer gas based system (“single fuel mode”). HPS distributes electricity directly to households and small businesses while keeping costs low by running insulated wires along bamboo poles to subscribing households, businesses and farms.
In just four years HPS has installed 84 mini-power plants, providing electricity to over 200,000 people spread across 300 villages, and employing 350 people operating across the state of Bihar.
Each plant serves around 400 households, saving approximately 42,000 litres of kerosene and 18,000 litres of diesel per year, significantly reducing indoor air pollution and improving health conditions in rural areas.
HPS creates an ecosystem around each plant by providing income generation opportunities to local farmers and entrepreneurs. Additionally, it creates employment through its livelihood programmes such as the incense stick manufacturing program which largely employs women. This enables sustainable development within the communities HPS serves.