For the first time in India, an integrated smart micro-grid of alternative energy sources – solar, wind and bio-gas from garbage – has been set up inside the campus of the Indian Institute of Engineering Science & Technology (IIEST), Shibpur, according to Prof. Ajoy Kumar Ray, the institution’s director.
The micro-grid has been created through multi-disciplinary research at IIEST under the leadership of Prof. Ray, which happens to be the second oldest engineering institute in India.
“We have developed solar cells which have achieved the highest efficiency at 19 percent compared to other solar cells made in India,” Prof. Ray said.
The institute is now setting up a total solar energy capacity of 700 Kw of which about 400 Kw have already been installed. “Once the entire 700 Kw is installed, and together with wind and biogas energy, we will be able to meet nearly 50 percent of the energy needs of the IIEST campus in Shibpur,” Prof. Ray said.
“All our departments have installed sophisticated machines for research work. The laboratories have to be air-conditioned to run these machines and this is adding to our power bills. If we can generate about 50 percent of our power needs with our own renewable energy sources then we can solve this major problem of high energy bills,” Prof. Ray said.
The institute’s biogas plant uses waste from the campus kitchens and hostels which add up to nearly half a ton a day. This is converted into biogas and then power is generated from the biogas to feed the smart micro-grid, which automatically starts using power from biogas when solar power is not available during the nights and evenings or when their too much cloud cover. The grid also uses wind power when that is available but that is only a few Kws.
The smart micro-grid based on green energy is one of the several multi-disciplinary research projects being driven by Prof. Ray to provide socially relevant solutions to various problems. Another such project is the development of low-cost food products to tackle the problem of malnutrition among mothers and children coming from the economically disadvantaged families.
“We are now giving such nutritious food to about 100 children and we have told the mothers and children that we shall give you training and you work together to produce the food. Then we will give you the food free of cost,” Prof. Ray said.
Under another such project, the institute is imparting technical skills to poor and deprived youth including minorities under a Corporate Social Responsibility scheme being sponsored by the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE).
“In the Howrah region all around our campus there are lots of slums. In the last four to five years, we have trained some 300 young people from these slums in such areas as film making, carpentry, welding, fitting etc.” he said.
In the area of water management, the institute has developed community water filters and hand-washing taps to tackle the problem of arsenic and fluoride contamination in groundwater. “As you know this is a major problem in large areas of West Bengal. We have installed these community filters in some three or four districts,” Prof. Ray said.
“We can do a lot more. We have developed so many products here but productisation is weak. We need funding,” Prof. Ray said.
Talking about start-ups and entrepreneurship by the students, Prof. Ray said “we have launched an incubation cell and so far some 22 of our students have become entrepreneurs. For example, one student has developed a micro-irrigation and plant nutrition product by which you can grow plants on a wall. Your wall can become your garden,” he said.
With the incidence of Dengue almost assuming epidemic proportions in Kolkata, the institution has installed an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) machine that helps to identify anti-bodies and antigens, to bring down the cost of conducting tests to identify the dengue virus.
“Normally such tests cost Rs. 2,000 or so but we are able to do these tests for poor people for free,” Prof. Ray said. “We are trying to develop different techniques for low-cost diagnosis of different types of diseases,” he said.
“We are now looking for 10-15 acres of land to set up a 100-bed research hospital just like the Dr. B.C. Roy Institute of Medical Research that was set up by IIT, Kharagpur when I was the director,” he said. “We have already been offered some land just beside that hospital but we want to set up this research hospital here under our Centre for Healthcare Science and Technology,” he said by way of signing off.
Arjun Sen Special Correspondent, Kolkata