Ratnakar’s mini turbines are changing lives of many people
G.K. Ratnakar of Jayapura in Chikmagalur district never attended college. However, today, many engineering students look up to him to gain knowledge on generating hydropower from mini turbines.
For 17 years, he has been lighting up the lives of people in remote villages where the Government could not provide electricity. Last month, five families of Malekudiya tribe at Pulittady, inside Kudremukh National Park, got electricity, thanks to Mr. Ratnakar’s 5-kilowatt (kW) turbine. The turbine set up in the Maoist-affected area in Belthangady taluk was his 311 mini hydel project.
He set up his first turbine at his home in 1995. He said that he spent the next two years in research and development and began taking up other projects from 1997.
Mr. Ratnakar, 54, told The Hindu that he has orders for setting up 12 more projects in the country, including supplying hydel power to streetlights in some villages in Sholapur taluk in Maharashtra. Another project was to supply power to a resort at Anegundi in Gangavathi taluk in Koppal district, by a stream that formed a three-foot high waterfall. It would be a 5 kW power project, he said.
Mr. Ratnakar, who studied up to class 10, said one more project would be at Bhagawathi Nature Camp inside Kudremukh National Park.
Of the 311 turbines set up by him, 251 were in Karnataka and the rest were in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Mr. Ratnakar said that his turbines had been set up in Tuni area, East Godavari district, in Andhra Pradesh.
He said that a 1-kW capacity project cost Rs. 50,000; a 2 -kW project, Rs. 60,000; and 3-kW project, Rs. 75,000.
The then President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam presented him with an award at Rashtrapati Bhavan on December 17, 2002, for his innovation in modified hydel electricity turbine. The award was instituted by the National Innovation Foundation, Ahmedabad.
Mr. Ratnakar said that the Western Ghats had potential for setting up many mini turbines. He said that power could be produced using waste water in cities, and that power could be used for streetlights in cities and towns. “I will take up such a project,” he said.
Unlike major hydel projects, mini turbine projects does not harm environment, he said. Mr. Ratnakar said that due to poverty he could not get the Government’s power connection at his home. Compulsion and inevitability of power forced him to try and produce power from water. “I could not continue education due to poverty,” he said.
Asked if he would have been an “innovator” provided he got formal education in a college, he replied: “Probably not. I would have been in some clerical job.”