Bringing Power to Padarwadi

Cummins models and executes an economically viable solution for generating electricity for an agrarian village.

Background

Padarwadi, a village situated 120 kilometres from Pune, is one of the many villages in India that depend on agriculture as the only source of household income. Earnings are less than 1$ per day, fundamental needs and hand-to-mouth survival takes precedence over everything else. The inconspicuous approach roads to the village further add difficulties for trade.

Sources of income for the residents of this village are as follows:

  • Produce comprising 35,000 kg of paddy, annually, making rice their major crop
  • Minor crops such as beans
  • Locally procured honey which is marketed using a locally active Non-Government Organization (NGO)

In order to make the 35,000 kg of paddy ready for sale, it needs to be dehusked. For a village not well connected, this means frequent uphill walks carrying paddy to the nearby facilities situated more than 2 km away, a ritual the villagers must repeat close to 800 times a year, a non-productive activity resulting in wastage of precious time and effort. Setting up an economically viable solution for a village struggling to have continuous power supply, seemed next to impossible.

Approach and effort

With only three weeks at hand before the monsoons commenced, Cummins worked to define the scope of the project. The approach finalized entailed establishing a Distributed Generation Model for Rural Electrification which is:

  • Economically sustainable
  • Scale able across multiple villages/hamlets
  • Uses the 'Right Technology' for electricity generation, one that is compliant to current emissions regulations for diesel
  • Uses locally available renewable energy (Straight Vegetable Oil from non-edible oil seeds grown locally)
  • Minimizes overall carbon emissions

The key was to provide electricity to run equipment such as power rice mill, oil expeller and decorticator using a single 15 kVA genset running on Pongamia Oil. Equally important was to empower the villagers so that they could independently take over the operations of the equipment and dehusk the paddy. This needed to be done in a manner that would not only be economically viable, but potentially could result in an avenue for generating income.

A process driven methodology followed and key Six-Sigma tools came in handy to define crucial details of the project. Based on the Voice of Customer (VOC) that included feedback and technical and human constraints of the village and its villagers, Cummins refined their model and customized the delivery of this solution.

Resulting change

The Padarwadi project is a typical initiative that underpins a ripple effect - a positive, continuous, progressive effect within the community as well as the organization. Some salient features of this successful model are:

  • The revenue generation surrounding the model estimates to bring an annual cash flow of US$ 2500 to the villagers
  • The potential to double farming output: This is possible now as the villagers invest human capital on additional farms instead of non-productive and laborious activities surrounding dehusking of paddy
  • The electrification project is within emission standards specified by the Central Pollution Control Board

Over and above the tangible benefits of this project, the real gain is the uplifted spirit of the villagers who are quick to think of newer and more creative ways of using their new assets. "We are making some sort of bread out of the rice, now that we have the flour mill as well", commented an excited villager. Indeed, positive energy spreads like a ripple.

Indian gentleman in Padarwadi
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