Masdar students going to Varanasi for community projects

A group of 24 students of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology accompanied by faculty will visit Varanasi in northern India to work with communities on projects directly related to energy and water issues.

By (Staff reporter)

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Published: Tue 20 Mar 2012, 8:24 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 12:58 AM

Dr Scott Kennedy, Associate Dean for Research, Masdar Institute, and students of the Energy and Poverty Solutions Course will be in Varanasi from March 24 to 30 as part of a field trip to address important energy and development challenges of this region. The projects are expected to benefit more than 2,000 people in three different communities in Varanasi district. They are being developed in consultation with local non-governmental organisations with significant experience in the region.

The Energy and Poverty Solutions Course has been in operation for three years now.

The communities in Varanasi have been chosen in consultation with the Human Welfare Association, a non-governmental organisation that is operating with the community, and Husk Power Systems, an energy company that works on biomass gasification-based power systems in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Preliminary studies of the villages have found that the communities get electricity only for a few hours daily and the primary schools lack proper sanitation, safe drinking water and educational material, besides being bogged down by poor infrastructure and inadequate facilities.

The students’ team led by Dr Kennedy will work towards improving living conditions in and around the communities. They will also engage with Husk Power Systems to seek ways for technical and business model improvements.

The Energy and Poverty Solutions Course focuses on the design and prototype construction of compact, robust, low-cost energy systems including micro-hydro, solar and wind turbine generators, and biomass cooking options. Through workshops and case studies, students learn design methodologies for creating flexible, adaptive and robust technologies and systems analysis tools to evaluate technical, economic, and social implementation challenges. Students also get the opportunity to travel to a developing country during their Spring break to identify and implement the projects. The Varanasi project is part of this initiative.

Dr Kennedy said: “The project in Varanasi will be a good learning experience for the students to understand and design sustainable projects in energy and water management. We aim to build a relationship with our local partners and share new knowledge with other

organisations to expand these efforts nationally and internationally. The field trip will effectively enrich the experience of the students and enable them to learn collaboratively with the people of these communities.”

Some of the projects previously undertaken by the Energy and Poverty Solutions Course include the enhancement of a micro-hydropower energy system for a rural village in Borneo, an analysis of water supply options for rural areas in Somaliland, and an assessment of energy needs and opportunities for a residential compound near Lusaka, Zambia.

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