Subbarayan, from the small village of Rambakkam just outside Puducherry, is a self-taught inventor of many a simple renewable energy solutions

At first glance, you may not feel anything extraordinary about this balding, dhoti clad old man who is yet another villager, but when he starts talking, he is definitely not an ordinary villager and his visions are extraordinary.

Subbarayan, from the small village of Rambakkam just outside Puducherry, is a self-taught inventor of many a simple renewable energy solutions.

He was born into an agricultural labour family, and at a very young age started working on the fields. When he was young, he taught himself how to read and write Tamil and without any formal education, he now dissects the Kamba Ramayanam and finds scientific references within the poem. Later on, he decided to learn English, and now his English is fluent.

At 75, Mr. Subbarayan dreams of a grid-less world where everyone is energy efficient. To this end, he has been dedicating years and years of research. “My dream is to be able to harness power from the waves. Setting up a tidal power harnessing plant has been in the pipeline for the past 10 years, but right now I have decided to show to the government that it is possible using a simulation model and then hope they will support me in my endeavour,” he says.

On the way, he has invented a number of machines that will generate power.

He started off with an idea to generate electricity using a “Sekku Maadu,” or ploughing cattle. Today, all that remains of the experiment is a groove in the ground and an empty shed.

“Although the idea was effective, it was not viable. Using two cows, it was only possible to generate 7.5 horse power, so I scrapped the idea,” he explains.

One of his more successful ideas was the generation of energy from waste through pyrolysis.

Using a structure that vaguely resembles milk can, Mr. Subburayan managed to run a 12 kilowatt motor using twigs and other plant material. Through the use of pyrolysis, wood gas is generated, which has the ability to run the motor, he explains.

He has successfully installed this invention in various places, including the Vazhdavour Panchayat, where it was used until they purchased a higher power motor to pump water last year.

One wood gas unit was even installed at the Indian Space Research Organisation to power their canteen.

“Unfortunately nobody realises the importance of clean energy. I am trying to encourage people to start using solar energy. I am now running my household on solar energy and feeding back to the grid. On average, I am able to supply one unit of power to the grid everyday after I finish consuming as much energy as I need. For this, the Government gives me Rs. 2 per unit incentive every month,” he explains.

More In: Puducherry