Idukki (Ker) |Rakesh Roy grew up seeing a picturesque mountain stream flow down a hill near his house at Kambilikandam in this mountainous district, but only once he became an engineer years later did he comprehend the height of that nondescript hill and realise the potential of 'Parathodu', the water body.
This realisation by the young engineer has made Mukkudam Small Hydroelectric Project, Kerala's first self-identified private small hydroelectric project, a reality in Idukki.
The private hydel plant began supplying power to the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) Limited late last month.
Roy said he was able to bring the project to fruition with the support of his six other friends who graduated with him from FISAT Engineering College in Angamaly some years ago.
Mukkudam is the 12th private small hydel power project in Kerala and the fifth such initiative in Idukki, Roy, who is the CMD of the company, said.
"We are proud to be the first self-identified private small hydroelectric project in the state. The uniqueness of the project is that it was identified by private persons like us in our own land," he told PTI.
He said though there was a provision for such projects in the ‘Kerala Small Hydro Power Policy 2012' rolled out in October 2012, he and his partners were the first to submit such a proposal to the government.
Even officials and government departments were initially apprehensive when they were approached with the project proposal as there was no precedence, he said.
When asked how he identified the power sector for their first entrepreneurial venture, he said he and his friends were aware that power was a potential area since their college days.
"Power cuts and electricity crunch had always been in the news in Kerala. So, even during our college days, we knew that it was a potential area," he said.
After realising the potential of the mountain stream, he discussed it with his friends who offered him all support to go ahead.
"Since our college days, we knew very well that power is a potential area...When I got an idea about this project, I shared it with my friends...discussed and debated with them...and finally we together and decided to go ahead with this initiative," Roy said.
Thirty nine-year-old Roy, a native of Kambilikandam here, quit his corporate career when he decided to go ahead with the power project in 2014.
His six collegemates have been with him as pillars of support throughout these years and invested their hard-earned money in it.
They registered a company and submitted a project report to the state government for a one MW power project in December, 2015.
Though they got technical sanction for the project in March 2018, a hydraulic study they conducted at the project site later revealed that it had the potential for a four MW project.
Based on a revised project report submitted to the government, approval was guaranteed for the present project in 2021.
After fighting several challenges -- from funding issues and procedural delays to Covid-19 problems -- the dream project was commissioned recently and it started supplying power to the KSEB since late last month.
"The gross head available for the project is 323.7 metres (1,070 feet). The length of the penstock is 1,310 metres. We have two turbine generators of 2 MW each," Roy explained.
The generators of the small hydel projects were linked to the KSEB's power grid on October 21.
"We expect that 11 million (1.1 crore) units of electricity can be generated annually through this power project," he said.
Though some state-run financial institutions were approached for a loan, they were reluctant to sanction funds as they failed to understand the potential and viability of such a project, Roy said.
But, two central government agencies gave them wholehearted support which helped them make it a reality, he added.
He also particularly mentioned the support and encouragement extended by Thiruvananthapuram-based Energy Management Centre under the Power Department, the nodal agency for Small Hydro Power Projects in the state.
Roy said Kerala has immense potential for small hydro power projects as they are environment friendly and more viable.
Besides Roy, Unni S Sankar, Nitish S J, Renjini M, Cyriac Jose, Faris E M and Rijo Joseph are the six other partners in the project.