New SMS, New Bulbs and New Roads for a New Life

I dedicate this article to my friend Bir.


A girl in Godhasin

This is a story about development, this is a story about human lives, this is the story of Ghodasin, a little village in the remote Mid-Western Nepal.

The Development Context

Nepal is this little country located between two future leading world powers that are China and India, famous outside its boundaries for trekking, observing the highest Himalayas mounts and beautiful landscapes, with a magnificent population and a rich culture. It is simply the country where we can observe both the top of the world, the Everest, as well as an extreme poverty and misery. Indeed, Nepal is the second poorest country in Asia, after Afghanistan, with only $700 GDP per Capita, which is equivalent to an average of $1.91 daily wealth per capita. In 2010, the quarter of the population was below the $1.25 poverty line, most of them located in the remote areas.(1)

Figure 1: Nepal GDP Per Capita

Figure 1: Nepal GDP Per Capita

The abolition of the 240-year-old Monarchy in 2007-2008 didn’t have significant effect on the economic situation and Nepal development is unfortunately still slowed down by the political instability and several civil conflicts.

In January 2015, Nepalese political parties had to find an agreement for the Constitution Establishment, but selfish behaviors from the parties blocked any potential agreement. Many strikes were organized by the Maoist party in Kathmandu that issued on “zero-activity” situations. Many roads were blocked, stores, shops and restaurants of the Nepali Capitol had to undergo several threats in case they decided to open during these days. The economic activity was simply stopped by the Maoists to demonstrate their disagreement and their conviction in this “Constitution Battle”, leading to several injured people in conjunction with drastic reduction of government income during these protest days.

Moreover, the economic development of Nepal faces other important issues such as a rising inflation, an economic downturn since 2012 (see Figure 1) as well as a high uncertainty for direct foreign investment, which is mainly due to the political instability and the insecurity.

Nonetheless, several international and national NGOs or companies are daily developing social and environmental projects in Nepal so that the living conditions of the population in remote areas have seen important improvements during the last fifteen years. For example, KAPEG, Kathmandu Alternative Power and Electricity Group, is one of the companies that has been contributing for the development of Ghodasin and they invited me to follow them this winter for an electrification experience as well as a social and energy assessment in Jumla district (See Figure 2).

Figure 2: Jumla (pink district) and Ghodasin (blue mark)

Figure 2: Jumla (pink district) and Ghodasin (blue mark)

 The Ghodasin Village

The story starts fifteen years ago, when Ghodasin villagers lived without neither electricity nor facility at 2500 meters in the middle of Nepali mountains. Bir, a little 6-year-old boy, is playing with some friends. They play with this particular game that looks like a billiard except that there is no ball or billiard cue but they play with little wood discs that they bang together. Around them, you can see some dogs, cats, cows, goats, chicken and cocks that are strolling in the village.

Night falls as though by magic when Bir’s mother is in the kitchen preparing the diner, hardly breathing in this dense and dark smoke. It’s also becoming dark outside and Bir’s father is looking at the brilliant stars while he is walking on his way back from the nearest village, Urthu, the place where he is working as a teacher. The path from Urthu to Ghodasin is very steep and sloping, especially hard to take when the surface is slippery and covered with snow and ice. Even so, he is wearing classic flip-flop shoes, almost bare foot, to climb this hard path thinking about warming up his feet close to the fire once he will arrive at home.

Godhasin Village

Godhasin Village

Bir’s father is a lucky man, most of his friends are farmers in the village and they are seeking other jobs or activities whereas lands are not farmable during the winter. Some of them are doing these wool balls continuously during the day, everyday, like if it was their favorite hobby… or maybe their only one while they are waiting for a paid activity. Others are knitting different kinds of carpet with this same wool. A small part of those people living in the village spend some savings to go in Kathmandu trying to get a job there and earning some money. Only some farmer-breeders have the duty to stay in the village for managing their livestock and making sure that they will survive to the cold season.

Survive in this beautiful nature is not effortless and people need to adapt their lifestyle by developing several techniques and routines with very few resources. For example, nights are bloody cold during the winter. To be compatible with these extreme climate conditions, the houses were built with a mix of mood and stones, which are more fragile than cement houses but have these particular characteristics to charge the heat from the sunlight as well as from the kitchen fire during the daytime and to free slowly this accumulated heat inside the house during the night.

During the fall, every families try to gather as wood as they can for the fire. They have to climb the mountains around the village, cut some trees and bring down each heavy pieces of the trunk on their suffering back. It could happen that some “rich” families in the village pay directly someone ready to sell some wood pieces, but many trees are freely available on the nearby mountains and the common practice is to cut these trees and bring this wood fuel down to the house for covering the family wood consumption, which reaches a peak during the winter. In most situations, villagers don’t pay anything for energy except some kerosene for people using paraffin lights.

Concerning the other basic facilities, there is no piped water but the mother has to go down two or three times a day at the river to get sufficient water for cooking the rice, for drinking water, etc. to cover all the family needs. There is also no toilet but people have to walk until different empty lands close to the village. For the moment, people are building the future power house close to the river and electricity is not yet available. Bir must learn reading with his father by using the low fire light before or after the diner.

This situation was very common in the area when Bir was a child, but the time passed and the village has seen many changes during the last decade. Nowadays, the living conditions are in many instances completely different and the future perspectives are more encouraging for the new generations.

The New SMS

SMS ? Short Message Service ? No, we will not talk about text messages that are sent everyday on our cellphones. In Ghodasin, SMS firstly refers to Smokeless Metal Stoves that were progressively installed in each household during the last fifteen years. Nowadays for cooking, every household is using Smokeless Metal Stove (SMS) or Efficient Smokeless Metal Stove (ESMS) that are more valuable than the former classic fire on three main aspects.

  • Health: These cooking systems produce less smoke inside the house and by the way reduce asthma and coughs, especially for children and mothers. Furthermore, these kinds of stove are safer than classic fire as they reduce the risk of skin burns.
  • Environment: Firstly, SMS and ESMS are consuming less wood for the same heat, which is a good point for reducing deforestation. Secondly, the wood consumption reduction plays a very important role for reducing global warming since incomplete wood combustions create significant amounts of black carbon. In 2013, a report written by Bond et al. suggests that black carbon plays a much more important role in climate change than many scientists previously thought and that it is one of the main causes of faster glacial melt in the Himalayas. (2)
  • Productivity: SMS utilization allows important time savings. By consuming less firewood and producing a constant heat, SMS, and particularly ESMS, save fuel gathering time, cooking time as well as clothes washing time for the women, which are assuming most of the tasks in the family.

However, people are still using too much wood with the classic SMS and there is still a wood overconsumption issue in the area. There is now a community and government forest that are managed and protected for long term resources management, but some isolated forests are not well managed and people are still cutting trees to get their wood for free. In the long run, people still might face wood scarcity and there is an urgent need to replace their SMS by ESMS. A project for replacing old SMS can be justified with the same arguments as previously. ESMS are really more efficient than SMS and can improve environmental and social living conditions.

Classic SMS in Ghodasin

Classic SMS in Ghodasin

The New Bulb

On the Figure 3, we can observe an important improvement in electrical lightning access in the Mid-Western Nepal. Solar lights and electricity represent more than 60% of the lightning systems used in 2011 whereas it represented only 15.69% ten years before when the kerosene was the main energy used for lightning with 71.02%.(3) This evolution can be explained economically as the price of lightning with electricity is in short, middle and long terms lower than lightning with kerosene, especially in Nepal that has important hydropower resources.

Figure 3: Type of lightning facilities in 2001 and 2011 for the Mid-Western Nepal

Figure 3: Type of lightning facilities in 2001 and 2011 for the Mid-Western Nepal

In 1999, a Micro Hydro Power system of 12 kW was installed for 86 households first and then for the remaining ones for providing electricity to the entire population (145 households) in Ghodasin. This first access to electricity has conducted considerable improvements for lightning. These improvements dragged diversified positive social effects along such as on the education since a good light availability would allow the children, like Bir was fifteen years back, to do their homework in good conditions with high luminosity, especially after dark, as well as on health as replacing kerosene lights by bulbs reduced household air pollution due to smoke and burns of kerosene. Lightning households with electricity made them more productive and mechanically improved their living conditions in both short run and long run. Lighting is a fundamental human need.

The New Road

To enter the village, we need to trek approximately two hours from the biggest city in the area, Jumla. Despite the airport, Jumla is what we can call a “locally built remote city”. The road to access Jumla was inaugurated only three years back, in 2012, connecting Jumla with the city of Nepalgunj close to the Indian border in the South of Mid-Western Nepal. Before, some goods were imported in the district by flight, a mean of transport that was of course too costly for the majority of the population, especially as the flight sector in the area is a kind of monopoly.

This new road has conducted important reductions in transportation costs for many goods and facilities in the area. Today, this road allows many trucks to transport facilities and materials for several NGOs projects. Now, it is also possible to import basic foods like rice or fruits at a reasonable price, even during the winter.

Jumla market during the winter with imported fruits and vegetables

Jumla market during the winter with imported fruits and vegetables

To conclude with the transport sector, bus companies have created new ride options from Jumla and people can travel today faster than by taking the old paths and at lower cost than buying one of these expensive and limited flight tickets.


Bir is now 21 years old and he is studying Law in Kathmandu. If all these projects had not been done in the area by NGOs or social companies like KAPEG, this opportunity to become graduate would maybe never happen. Bir has the project to become a politician and he is already involved on many projects like in Urthu, the nearest village from Ghodasin, to implement a new library for improving education access and facilities in the area. His parents and Ghodasin inhabitants are now benefiting from piped water and latrines. Some farmers are enjoying greenhouses that allow them to farm during the winter. Every house has at least one efficient compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), most of the houses have a radio, 70 households have a TV, etc. To resume, facilities are more and more common in the village and the demand is very intense. I will always remember this 75-year-old woman that explained me that her dream was to get a TV to see the world in color…

There is are still some projects to conduct and, for example in the near future, computers and internet would increase education level even more than the current improvements and facilities installations. There are 1.2 billions people in the world, maybe even more according to different estimations, that are leaving without any electricity access. Some of those people are simply waiting a bulb to light their houses or their stores. Furthermore, there are many potential productive uses of electricity that could be exploited to contribute in improving their living conditions. Electricity access has the opportunity to change many lives and can open up new horizons for millions of people on Earth, as it was the case for the family of Bir and Ghodasin villagers as well as thousands of people already in Nepal.

(1) World Bank – Nepal Statistics,
(2) Bond, T. C., et al. (2013), Bounding the role of black carbon in the climate system: A scientific assessment,
(3) Nepal Central Bureau of Statistics,

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First days in Kathmandu and KAPEG presentation

Two weeks ago, my train from Chennai was arriving in the Gorakhpur train station. After more than 2700 km and 42 hours sharing a sleeper-class bed and after some long discussions with very nice people, I was happy to be arrived in this little indian city close to the Nepali border.


On the train

Railways and pollution in Gorakhpur

I stayed two nights and one day there, where I enjoyed some rest (with my first hot shower since my departure from France) and the city visit before taking a first bus to reach the border gateway at Sunauli. From Sunauli, I took a last bus that went through some mountains and others beautiful landscapes before dropping me in the middle of Kathmandu, a bit lost and tired after almost an entire day in bus !

Gorakhnath Temple and its pond

Gorakhnath Temple and its pond

Gorakhnath temple

Gorakhnath Temple

Cows in the street (Gorakhpur)

Cows in the street (Gorakhpur)

Cycle Rickshaw - Gorakhpur (video link)

Cycle Rickshaw – Gorakhpur (video link)

Border Gateway - Welcome to Nepal

Border Gateway – Welcome to Nepal

At my arrival, I met two friends that I had met for the first time in Auroville, Antoine and Claudine. They just left yesterday and I’ve really enjoyed these days together. We’ve visited most of the places in Kathmandu, especially Durbar Square, Swayambunath also called the Monkey Temple and the famous commercial district of Thamel.

Antoine and Claudine - Durbar Square

Antoine and Claudine – Durbar Square

Durbar Square

Durbar Square and all its pigeons !

Shiva Representation - Durbar Square

Shiva Representation – Durbar Square


With the Sadhus !

Lord Buddha - Swayambunath

Lord Buddha – Swayambunath


Swayambunath – Monkey Temple

A monkey overhanging Kathmandu city

A monkey overhanging Kathmandu city

Monkeys and eagles

Monkeys and eagles

Kathmandu is agitated during the day when motorcycles, cycle-rickshaw, taxis and cars are going through the crowd in the narrow streets of the city, especially during Saturday. Indeed here the holiday day is on Saturday and people are working on Sunday. All this heavy traffic in a city surrounded by mountains causes an important air pollution and we can see that many people are wearing a mask to avoid some respiratory problems. Except these problems of air and noise pollutions, as it is the case in most of the big cities, Kathmandu is a very beautiful city and Nepalese people are magnificent.



Nepalese children

Nepalese girl

Nepalese girl

A Nepalese people with mask

A Nepali wearing a mask

Despite having the second largest hydropower resource in the world, the electricity supply is not sufficient and there are approximately 10-14 hours of electricity per day in Kathmandu, with scheduled power cuts among 7 groups of districts. If you go in the mountains, the electricity supply is an entirely different matter.

Telecom and electric cables

Telecom and electric cables

KAPEG, Kathmandu Alternative Power and Energy Group, is a social company that is working on developing new energy technology to bring innovative solutions to overcome Nepal’s geographical and meteorological particular constraints. By primarily developing some new technologies, KAPEG also aspires to be socially involved. Therefore, the company is installing different pilot projects in extreme areas both in order to test the technology and to help population that are living there. The last project was the construction and the installation of a small wind turbine in a very isolated place somewhere in the Kalahandi district in Odisha (East India).

Kimon and Sulav, two 26-year-old KAPEG engineers, welcomed me this week and we are currently preparing a market assessment in the Jumla district that should start end of next week. Tomorrow, I’ll visit the Kathmandu office of the Practical Action NGO in order to get more information about the place and some tips for the market assessment.

Kimon and the small wind turbine in Kalahandi

Kimon and the small wind turbine in Kalahandi

The next article will introduce the different objectives and missions of the Jumla district visit as well as some statistics about this place. Stay tuned !

MinVayu – ORSED project : The first assessment

For my first visit in Kanyakumari district, I was with Sundar, a social development expert at ORSED, and we stayed together in Aralvaimozhi for the assessment, in the house of Neela and his family, who I would like to give a very warm thank-you for their very warm welcome.


Vishnu before going to school – Neela’s son

This article presents the progress in the market assessment, especially the different objectives according to the current situation, noticed with some primary data obtained during several discussions with farmers, and the precise region of interest.


Replace old diesel water pumps with wind-electric water pumping systems to protect the environment and reduce the annual farmers’ water-pumping cost (1), provide a better electricity access (2) in the village and help them to access basic electrical appliances such as water-purifying devices (3), which we would like to implement in order to reduce some disease risks due to coliform bacteria and pesticides… These three axes constitute the main objectives for the project in the Southern Tamil Nadu.

1. Replace old diesel water pumps with wind-electric water pumping systems

Very often we remarked that the electrical grid is really close to the banana or paddy crops, even in some places we saw transmission towers into these fields, but farmers still use diesel generators to pump the water during the dry season (see graph below) while they could use the electricity just over their heads… The question is why do they need diesel generator if the grid comes to the field?

The answer is quiet simple: there is no electricity within the grid, at least mere three, four or five hours of power per day and mostly at night time. By law, the Indian government has to provide free electricity to the farmers and is officially supporting the farms through numerous subsidies… but in the reality, this is really different. For the “lucky” farmers, the place is already electrified but they have no power most of the time. The others, i.e. most of the farmers, are still waiting to be relied to the grid, which would take a very long time and, most importantly, would be very costly.


A water pump in banana fields

The Indian government is also subsidising the diesel but the cost remains expansive for the farmers. Our solution is to install wind, solar or hybrid systems, depending on the precise location, to replace these old polluting diesel pumps.

How to convince a farmer to pay, even a little, for such systems if he knows that the government should provide him free electricity access?

The mandatory requirement should be that the new system has to be cheaper than the diesel pump running costs, including installation and maintenance costs. To check this requirement, we first need to have precise data on the average annual expenditures for the diesel water pumping systems.


Diesel generator protected from the rain with wood plank and banana leafs

Obviously this budget would not be the same for each farmer mostly because they are facing different constraints such as the depth of the water that is not constant, the generator that could be more or less efficient, etc. Therefore, the cost of each installations should be unique because of proper constraints and individual budget.

What would think a farmer if he has to pay more for a similar system than his neighbour? We should pay attention to equalised the price, which could be done through a community pricing system that has to be precisely determined. 

2. Provide a better electricity access

As we said before, the Government of India has to provide electricity to the farmers that represent approximately 119 millions Indian people according to the census 2011, without including the family of each farmer that would finally represent three or four times this number. Now, can someone explain to us how a government can provide free electricity to 400 millions people? Especially when this one is buying the electricity to private companies? I think, and I guess that you are thinking the same also, that this is not possible, even in the best of worlds. The only solution for the government to “fulfil” its obligations is to delay the grid expansion and to power the small electrified villages grid only three or four hours per day…

We are able to create small electricity production unit in farms and in the villages around, we would be able to provide them 24/24 electricity, the problem is how to finance these systems? Most of the farmers cannot afford directly this kind of necessary “luxury” for their development and that is why any company is trying to invest in this huge potential market… the risk of no-repayment is very high and of course this last one represents also an important constraint for the project that we are developing. Thus, the key to provide a better electricity access is to find a sustainable social financial system mainly by giving incentives to the farmers… a water purification system ?

3. Install water purification systems

Instead, install water purification systems could give them an incentive to pay for an electricity access because they will pay for something they can identify in the daily life, i.e. that they will pay for a recipient of purified water and then indirectly pay for the electricity. Firstly, this system will reduce different disease risks and could be a first step before they fully realise the different opportunities given by a constant electricity access: fridge, light, fans, TV, internet, etc.

The precise region of interest

Due to some confidentiality about the project, I cannot say the exact name of each place that we’ve visited. However, I’ve created an high resolution map for the project that give the frame of the covered region. Each case represents an area with proper wind and solar ressources. To be precise, I have found different meteorological hourly data from 2002 to 2011 for 81 GPS zone (from A1 to I9) and 100 GPS coordinates. These data will allow us to determine what is the best solution at a macro level between wind, solar or hybrid systems according to the available renewable energy ressources and their intermittency. The analysis is in progress.

High resolution map of the covered areas

High resolution map of the covered areas

Finally, this kind of project reveals how it is important to have a good understanding of the climate in the region, especially in terms of wind ressources, solar ressources and, last but not least, water ressources. Fortunately, ORSED has a great expertise in meteorology forecasting as well as social expertise and its experience about climate studies in Tamil Nadu is necessary and very helpful for the analysis. Basically, the state has three distinct seasons:

  • The dry season from January to May
  • The South West monsoon: moderate rainfall with strong southwest winds – from June to September
  • The North East monsoon: Important rainfall with dominant northeast winds – from October to December
Monthly average rainfalls (2004-2010) - Kanyakumari district

Monthly average rainfalls (2004-2010) – Kanyakumari district (source: India Meteorological Department – IMD)

To conclude, the climate is changing and seasons are not identical from one year to the next one. Indeed, you can observe on the graph above that the separation between season is not so clear over the average of the 2004-2010 period. That leads to an higher degree of uncertainty that complicates forecasting in the one hand but also exposes farmers to an higher risks of losses in the other hand, especially for those who don’t have water pumps, and the aim of our social project is also to bring different answers for these issues.

Me with "rich" farmers

We’ve visited different farmers, these ones were rich and offered me (too much) coconut juice (see T-shirt)

First steps in the Kanyakumari region

Beginning of the market assessment in Aralvaimozhi, which is the place where I’ll stay during few days, close to Kanyakumari. You can see that there are already big wind farms around that place but there is still a lack of electricity in local rural areas because all the production is transmitted to the grid that does not serve these last ones correctly or not at all… Here is the role of the locally built small wind turbines !

Some pictures of the first day on the field:

SAM_1331_result SAM_1335_result SAM_1352_result SAM_1359_result SAM_1367_result SAM_1372_result SAM_1385_result SAM_1393_result SAM_1401_result SAM_1406_result SAM_1413_result

Pondicherry, an atypical city in India

After one month of being infused in the Indian atmosphere, I realise that the place where I’m living at the moment is maybe one of the most particular places in India. Except the fact that I’m staying in Auroville, which is a very unusual and very pleasant international town in the outskirts of Pondicherry, the place of Pondicherry itself is atypical compare to others Indian cities.

Someone special in Pondicherry

An atypical people in the atypical city of Pondicherry

A little geography and history

Pondicherry, which is also called Puducherry (since 2006) or Pondichéry (in French), is located in the state of Tamil Nadu in South India that is the 4th largest economy among all Indian states.

Pondicherry and Auroville localisation

Pondicherry and Auroville localisation

Pondicherry has known different colonial periods in History, but the French mainly held the control of the city from the year 1674 to the 1st November 1954, when the French government leave all the ancient territories of the French India under the control of the Indian Government. The French colony has given some rights to the Dalits people (the lowest caste) that were forbidden before like the right to wear clothes and shoes in the street, which have been at the basis of a certain social equality emancipation. Therefore, the French government has been regretted at that time of the Independence and is still regretted by some people nowadays. In this regard, the language of Molière is used by a part of the population and Pondicherry benefits from a special treatment especially lower taxes in some goods like liquors, which make also Pondicherry the perfect place to buy souvenirs.

The little city of Pondicherry

The map of the city (see below) demonstrate clearly the colonial influence with its perpendicular and parallel streets. There is three different districts with three distinct ambiances: the French district (the south part in orange) very quiet and calm, the Muslim district (the west part in green) with the delightful Muezzin’s call at 5 am and, finally, the Indian district (the center and east part in green) which is very animated and where driving a motorcycle looks like in a crazy video game !

Pondicherry's Map

Pondicherry’s Map

In others words, Pondicherry is not a very big city and its simple organisation makes the things really easy to take his marks, especially if you are french. There is no magnificent monuments but the entire city has a very special atmosphere. Indeed, you can do some shopping in Nehru Street with its many different stores, get lost in the Grand Bazaar (Goubert Market) with all its exotic sights and smells, drink a coffee with a french croissant in the modern french bakery, enjoy a beautiful walk or a motorcycle ride along the sea’s bay, spend an afternoon at the Government Place with its peaceful park… There is so many different ambiances that you should certainly appreciate the little city of Pondicherry !

A little visit in pictures

Talking, talking, talking… Sometimes, pictures are more representative than hundreds of words ! Am I Right? Anyway, let’s have a real look on Pondicherry !


Rooftop view of Pondicherry n°1

Rooftop view of Pondicherry n°2

Rooftop view of Pondicherry n°2

Rooftop view of Pondicherry n°3

Rooftop view of Pondicherry n°3

These pictures were taken in the ORSED’s office, in the extreme west part of Pondicherry. Now, let’s go down in the street.


Bicycles, a common mean of transportation


A Tuk-Tuk with a driver getting some rest

Sea's  bay in Pondicherry

Sea’s bay by motorcycle in Pondicherry… what a fresh ride in the morning !

An Ambassador car... I am fan !

An Ambassador car… I am a fan !

A cow with a steamroller

A dog among the thousands of stray dogs in Pondicherry

A dog among the thousands of stray dogs in Pondicherry

Each Sunday, the main streets of Pondicherry are agitated with a lot of different stalls in front of the stores for the Sunday Market… It’s time to bargain in this huge mass of people !

Mahatma Gandhi Street

Mahatma Gandhi Street during the Sunday market…


…there is definitely too many people !

Pondicherry is also a city with very diversified religious cults. For example, when I stayed in the muslim district during my first days, it was really special to be rocked by the Muezzin’s call. I let you discover this inspiring diversity in pictures.

Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple - Ganesh

Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple – Ganesha

Here you can buy some offerings for Ganesh

Here you can buy some offerings for Ganesha


And you can also marry you ! (Antoine and Claudine, 2 magnificent married Swiss friends)


Église de Notre Dame des Anges


Cathédrale Notre-Dame de l’Immaculée Conception


Église de Sacré Coeur de Jésus

Sri Aurobindo's Ashram

Sri Aurobindo’s Ashram

“True knowledge is not attained by thinking. It is what you are; it is what you become.” ― Sri Aurobindo

The Goubert Market, the famous Grand Bazaar in Pondicherry, where you can fill your grocery basket with a lot of vegetables, fruits, spices, etc.


Goubert market sight n°1


Goubert market sight n°2


Goubert market sight n°3


Goubert market sight n°4


Goubert market sight n°5


“Fresh” Fishes


Bag of spices in the Grand Bazaar


A woman confectioning flower necklaces in the Grand Bazaar

Others representative monuments of the french period…

Government Place

Government Place

1914-1918 Memorial

1914-1918 Memorial

During the sunset, you can enjoy the end of your day admiring the sea with your friends.

Sunset on Pondicherry's beach

Sunset on Pondicherry’s beach

When the night is coming around 6 pm, we discover others surprising atmospheres with particular feelings. In these pictures, you’ll see lot of lights mainly because of the 60th anniversary of the Independence Day of Pondicherry (1st November 1954) and of Diwali’s Day (22 October 2014).

The sea's bay of Pondicherry by night

The sea’s bay of Pondicherry by night

The Gandhi Statue

The Gandhi Statue

Chief Secretary - Pondicherry Government

Eduardo front of the Pondicherry Government’s Chief Secretariat

Nehru Street by night

Nehru Street by night

A liquor store and bar

A liquor store and bar


Sometimes indian people try to help dogs… (This lucky one is called Jimmy)


… At other times, they try to help homeless people.

To conclude, I think that Pondicherry is a beautiful and interesting city to visit, especially if you are french considering the important french community that is living here. You will not come for visiting magnificent monuments but for living entirely in this atypical city of the South India.


Pondicherry’s night atmosphere – Antoine Poget

Visiting Kanyakumari area for a market assessment

At the moment in Auroville, I’ll leave next week to visit different windy places around Kanyakumari, in the Southern Tamil Nadu. In cooperation with ORSED we will conduct a social market analysis in order to assess different characteristics concerning the population and the field for finding the best place to implement the first project.

Wind Map - Tamil Nadu

Wind Map – Tamil Nadu

As an economist, I would have expected a precise survey which could be done only in few days but the local conditions and culture don’t allow this kind of process. A market assessment in farms is much more complicated in the sense that you need the entire trust of the farmers before asking precise questions, which requests a certain dexterity and tact. Luckily the indian population is very welcoming with the foreigners and I’m very enthusiastic about this survey. To conclude, this weekend is a good time for the trip preparation while it is also the 60th birthday of the Pondicherry Liberation Day, when french territories were transferred to India.

Locally built small wind turbine development for the most isolated areas

Small wind turbinesOrigins

The idea of a locally built small wind turbine came from Hugh Piggott when he decided to build his own wind turbine on the Scoraig island in Scotland, a very windy region, in the 1980’s. After different projects for his neighbors, he defined the design for producing small wind turbines at low costs without any complex tools and making them suitable to be built with different local materials.

Nowadays, a lot of engineers from many different countries have adapted Piggott’s models by making the turbines well fitted for their respective rural areas and creating their own organisation. In November 2014, the 2nd Wind Empowerment Global Conference will gather all these different organisations, providing an opportunity to diffuse and share the global knowledge about small wind turbines and facilitate the electrification of poor rural areas in the world.

Hugh Piggott

Hugh Piggott

A mutual-benefits philosophy

“Saving by learning and learning by doing.” could represent the locally built wind turbine philosophy. Transfer the technology through different training workshops to farmers, villagers, etc., allows the organisation to delegate the operation and maintenance of the turbine and, by the way, reduce their costs. If you can teach some people living in the village the basics of the technology and the safety rules, you would not be obliged to hire a technician in case of problems which would imply added transportation costs and wages. Furthermore, the workshop is productive as the entire turbine is built and installed when people are learning the building process. Finally, each organisation can use workshops as a way of doing research, testing others systems in order to improve the entire technology.

Workshop Costs

A universal technology

Basically, a wind turbine is converting kinetic energy from the wind into electrical energy, which could be used for battery charging, water pumping, etc.. The blades of the turbine receive a part of the wind airflow and move magnet rotors, which convert the kinetic energy into a rotating magnetic field around another part called the stator transforming the magnetic energy into electricity. The small wind turbines power capacity starts from less than 1 kWh to more than 10 kWh, generally varying with the stator’s diameter and blades’ size.

The small wind turbine technology

The small wind turbine technology – From Jon Leary’s thesis – Adapted from Roland Beile / Tripalium

This initial technology is not only open source, it allows a flexibility for the local manufacturers to adapt the turbine’s design to the local constraints. In this sense, there are many possibilities according to the environment resources (wind speed, humidity, mountains or plains, availability of skills, electricity demand, etc.) to create the custom-fitted small wind turbine and improve its technical efficiency.

Global wind resources

Global wind resources

Use wind and light the world

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), approximately 1.2 billion people still have no access to electricity including 300 millions people in India. Most of whom are living in very poor rural areas, often very isolated and out of the grid.

People without electricity access

People without electricity access

If we consider the following graphic, the concave trend shows that the first kWh available has an important impact on the Human Development Index (HDI), which means that the electrification stage plays an important role in the development. By the way, small wind turbines as well as solar panels have to seize this important demand in order to improve local living conditions providing green electricity.

HDI function of electricity consumption

HDI function of the annual electricity consumption (Source: UNDP 2006)

However, it is important to consider the embodied energy, also called grey energy that represents the sum of all the energy used during the lifecycle (production, extraction, processing, manufacturing, transportation, implementation, use, maintenance and recycling) of a product. In this regard, small wind turbines should be far more competitive compared to solar panels as many pieces are built on the site with local materials mainly using human energy. One of the research axes in the future could be to find a way for easily determining the embodied energy in small wind turbines.

From wind water pumping to Internet

In the south of Tamil Nadu (Kanyakumari areas), the places are very windy according to multiple data sources (i.e. 3TIER previous wind map) and appear to be very suitable for developing and testing new generation wind water pumping technology. Moreover, there is more than 26 millions diesel water pumps in India which should be replaced using solar or wind energy. The Indian government has recently planed to invest 1.6 billions dollars (100 billions Indian rupees) in the next 5 years in order to replace 200,000 diesel water pumps (less than 1% of the market). In exchange, farmers would have to use drip irrigation system in order to save water resources. This investment of 1.6 billions dollars shows how important is the market to replace 3hp and 5hp diesel water pumps.

Indian Government in New Delhi

Indian Government in New Delhi

Following this objective, MinVayu is working on developing new technologies for more efficient wind turbines, especially to make the wind turbine systems lighter, easier to transport, install and maintain by testing some materials like bamboo. In cooperation with ORSED, their objective is to replace thousands of old diesel water pumps in the next years. By replacing this old system, this project would have a positive impact on the environment as well as on the trades balances and government budget of India, which is importing petrol and giving subsidies to sustain farmers’ diesel demand for water pumping.

Bamboo center for testing

Bamboo center for testing (Auroville)

To conclude, hundreds of small wind turbine installations would allow to create an important network reducing the maintenance costs and the non-repayment risk, especially if we are able to create a system with different incentives like battery charging in home and internet connection. The development of a such system would be the key to obtain fundings for developing a sustainable rural electrification as well as installing smart irrigation system and providing an access to the global network.

Testing in progress in Auroville…

New article in preparation about the project. The workshop in Bangalore was cancelled because there was not enough participants to cover the costs. At the moment, we are working on the prototype of wind turbine for 3hp water pump, making different tests in order to have an estimation of the potential extracted water volume. The weather’s conditions are not really good, which is making working conditions very difficult and slowing…


Eduardo working on the earth connector (under the rain…)

Furthermore, I have decided to live in Auroville, which is an international community with multiples research fields and different cultural activities, where MinVayu is implanted. The place is very nice and peaceful, suitable for meditation.

Finally, with my new friend Eduardo, the best Venezuelan mechanical engineer as well as my spanish teacher, we have visited Pondicherry, been shopping, enjoyed nice food, etc. This week, I will publish both an article on the project and another one on Pondicherry.  Stay tuned !

Pondicherry sea's bay

Pondicherry sea’s bay

Arrived in Pondicherry / Arrivé à Pondicherry

I am arrived safely and having a good evening in Pondicherry. The trip was really nice, particularly the taxi. Each driver in India is always pressing the horn like a quiet complex code to advertise that he’s here, where he would like to go, etc.. There are many things to say about my first moments in India, it’s amazingly exotic and stimulates my desire to discover more landscapes. Tomorrow morning, I will visit Auroville, especially the MinVayu workshop, and on Wednesday I should go in Bangalore.

Now, it’s 1:45am in India, some dogs are barking in the street that I need to cross to go in my room, I will need to do it quickly !

Je suis bien arrivé en Inde et j’ai passé une bonne soirée à Pondicherry. Le voyage était vraiment agréable, particulièrement le trajet en taxi. Chaque conducteur en Inde est tout le temps en train d’actionner son klaxon comme un code assez complexe pour avertir qu’il est là, où il veut aller, etc. (Je ne vais pas louer de scooter avant de bien comprendre tout ça…). Il y a vraiment beaucoup de choses à dire à propos de mes premiers moments en Inde, c’est vraiment très exotique et cela stimule mon désir de découvrir encore plus de paysages. Demain matin, je vais visiter Auroville, notamment l’atelier de MinVayu, et mercredi je devrais partir vers Bangalore.

Maintenant, c’est 1h45 en Inde, quelques chiens aboient dans la rue que je dois traverser pour rejoindre ma chambre, je vais devoir faire ça rapidement !