pankaj agarwal

Incubating Clean Energy Technologies for the BoP

At 4 am, Mumbai paints a totally different picture. In the daytime, it’s completely (almost overwhelmingly) alive; at the witching hour, it is miles away from that depiction. Yet, there I was, waiting in front of an office building on a deserted Mumbai street, when the cab pulled up to take me to ARTI (the Appropriate Rural Technology Institute), a registered scientific society established to develop and transfer innovative, sustainable technologies to rural people for income generation and to improve their quality of life. It is based in a small village called Felton, which is 100 kms away from the city of Pune.

After paying a nominal fee of INR 145, the research official took me to the Institute’s field, where they had set up the prototypes of all of the developed technologies – ranging from rural energy to agri-horticultural to better chulhas to greenhouse technologies to techniques of organic farming.

Apart from developing technologies and various products, ARTI has launched numerous projects intended to spark growth and innovation in the rural areas, including the launch of Women Technology Park in 2007. These projects have been funded by the likes of Shell Foundation UK, Department of Science and Technology – Government of India, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

However, our main motive to visit the institute was to understand their energy production sector, especially bio-gas plants. The official tour provided me with a deep insight into the working of a typical bio-gas plant. It was important to understand the technical and operational disparities between a commercial and residential system, as well as the varieties of setups, capacities and outputs affiliated with different systems. All this information is available here.

Recently, an ambitious project aimed at producing charcoal from garbage has been launched in Latur, a prosperous town in central Maharashtra, India. This path breaking project was launched on March 1 2009 and is a collaborative venture of RaGa LLC (USA), Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (India), Samuchit Enviro Tech Pvt. Ltd. (India), and Jan-Seva Solid Waste Management Co-operative Society Ltd. (Latur, India). The technology used for converting garbage to charcoal is provided by ARTI.

At the end of the day, the Research Head gave me a booklet and a CD which has the deeper details swirling in my head. All in all, it was an experience worth getting up and waiting at 4 in the morning.

If anyone is around Mumbai or Pune and would like to visit the institute, let me know. I would be happy to accompany you if I can.